BY LISA S.T. DOSS
The story usually begins with a formidable, cannot live without you type of love! Laura knew John two years before he decided to enlist and give his mind, spirit and body to the United States Marines. With a box of tissues in her lap, she spent hours watching movies to survive 13 long weeks, while John transitioned through three phases of endurance training comprising history and customs, martial arts and survival, and marksmanship training. Sculpted in body, and appearing more focused after boot camp, John and Laura spent hours reminiscing over great times with friends and discussed life together. At the sight of the silver ring, she willingly surrendered and said “yes!” Laura envisioned their married life globe-trotting in and out of continents and countries while holding the hands of their children. Days before they left for California, John’s grandfather handed Laura a well-worn 1955 edition of “The Marine Corps Wife.” George said only three words, “You’ll need this!”
John is a third-generation Marine. Throughout his life, he coveted Grandpa and Dad’s stories of war and heroism, seeing the world and the bonds formed through brotherly comradery. Black-and-white framed photos without a speck of dust lined the walls in Grandpa’s study. Life, as he knew, was defined through the principles of order, hard work, God and family, and respect. Completing boot camp was a step in fulfilling his dream. Laura’s optimism and level-headedness brought him peace. John knew she’d quickly make friends and adapt to military life.
Conditioning began with the frequent sighting of tanks, low-flying helicopters and five-mile-per-hour speed limit signs. “Reveille” played at 6:30am, and each evening brought the mournful melody of “Retreat” at precisely 5pm. Neighbors introduced themselves and periodically came over to talk. In learning about her fellow military spouses, she met the cheerful, stoic doctor whose husband was out of contact for nine months and a bride, like her, who just graduated from high school.
By the luck of the lottery, base housing supplied a three-bedroom row house. The thin walls included a feeling of surround-sound, which comprised of mumbled conversations, periodic infants’ screams and evenings of boisterous laughter or arguments.
In the evening, a mere one-month later, Laura helped soak John’s blistered feet in rubbing alcohol and water. He shared the unfortunate story of meeting with his first sergeant, who said, “Get your family under control!” Laura failed to dismount and render the proper honors to the United States colors, a severe offense. The rules require service members and civilians to politely stop, face the flag with a hand over heart, and show proper respect for the raising or retiring of the flag!
Coming home from work, most people have the luxury of relaxing or leaving the house to enjoy a meal. In a military marriage, duty is primary. Laura sat for hours at the base barbershop awaiting John’s weekly haircut. Calls arrived all hours of the day, seven days a week. While most newly married couples planned vacations and weekend getaways, military couples operated on a “duty first, family second” mentality. John received orders to leave in a moment’s notice to participate in “operational tempo” and “leave blocks” associated with weeks of training or long-term deployments. Weeks of sitting on the couch, listening to the sounds of active families made Laura feel more alone. While the separation had the potential to overshadow personal goals and aspirations, wives can either spend years in misery or find a means to find the best in every situation.
Divorce is common among military families. The danger of missions and rotational deployments significantly impacts the ability of wives or husbands to remain committed to the lifestyle. Laura, guided by friends and the archaic yet applicable “The Marine Corp Wife” handbook, provided valuable lessons to enjoy the struggles and blessings of marriage. She could account for years together and apart. The mindset changed as John witnessed the birth of two children, both boys, via Skype. Laura raised the boys as both father and mother while John served his country. A sacrifice when the love of country and duty comes first, but to families, it becomes a real honor.