Christmas: Paying the Price of Freedom

Monday, February 28, 2011

“The Sunrises are really pretty here.  The sun is actually orange, and seems foreign.  I still only look at it through the scope though.”

Although the sunrises were beautiful on the submarine, the life was extremely harsh.  We were gone 6 to 8 months of the year, every year, and when were are in port we still have to work a duty day every 3 days (a 24 hour workday from 6:30am to 6:30am).  The hardest part about this life was dealing with the holidays.  On December 14, 2010 we went out for a deployment even though Christmas was within 2 weeks.

Monday, December 20, 2010

“Today I woke up and realized Christmas was around the corner.  Normally I would be counting down the days and be looking forward to it, but this year I am not.  Tomorrow we pull into Saipan.  I have duty tomorrow and on Christmas.  This will be a Christmas I will never forget, and not because it was awesome.  The crew had received bags, which contained a movie, a bunch of treats, and a Christmas card, which is a horrible idea when it’s not from someone you know, and you’re not spending Christmas with your family.  On top of that it seemed like the movie was picked from the bargain bin.”

I awoke that dreadful day to a messenger telling me it was 5:30am.  I got up, threw on my coveralls, and headed to crews mess for chow.  The breakfasts were my most hated meal, but we were in port, which meant we had real, fresh eggs.  After breakfast we had our duty meeting.  I didn’t have watch until noon, so I went to my rack and pulled out my Christmas cards my mom had given to me before deployment began.  I had 2 boxes of letters/cards from her.  They were organized with dates on them, so I could open one everyday, and they took care of the holidays, and birthday letters.  The cool thing was that she was able to get most of my extended family to write a lot of these letters.

I opened the first card, from a cousin, she wished me a merry Christmas, and hoped that I was doing well.  I opened the second one, from my brother.  He said he knew what it was like to not be with family for Christmas, and to stay strong on this holiday.  I got a frog in my throat and I held back tears.  I opened the third card, from my mother.  It said, “I love you, I miss you, I wish you were home.”

I closed the card.  Tears were starting to glide down my cheeks.  I put the cards back into the box and decided not to read the rest of them, it was just too hard.  I wiped off my face, I walked out of the sleeping quarters, down the hallway, and up the stairs to the ladder for the hatch.  I climbed out of the hatch, I walked past the 2 topside watch standers, had not said a word, I didn’t pick my head up to look at them, all while hiding my emotions as best I could.  I continued to walk onto the concrete pier.  I found a spot where nobody could see me, and then I broke.  My face flooded with tears.  I looked out over the ocean, but there was nothing, not even hope.  No matter what I wished for or how many times I wished it, I would still be here, alone.

There is a place we all think of where we feel most comfortable, it’s different for all of us, but if there was one place I wanted to be it was home.  Home is a place where you stay wrapped up in your warm blankets on a bed.  Home is a place where you can stay in your room for as long as you want.  Home is a place where you can sit by a fire roasting marshmallows on a Friday night, and enjoying the company of family and friends.  Home is a place where you see and talk to your friends and family, and see their faces everyday.  The days on the submarine are all the same, every week the same routine.  From pizza night on Saturdays, followed by sundae Sundays, and being woken up at 4:30am for morning watch.  I may have lived on a submarine for 4 years, but I will never call this place home.  This lonely, cold concrete pier is not home, and it’s the farthest from home I’ve ever been.  This place is just as dark and cold as the depths of the ocean, but I have to be here, stuck and powerless on Christmas.

I stayed in that spot for 45 minutes.  I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to face the reality that I wouldn’t get to see any of my family members today, and I didn’t want this from Christmas.  I was destroyed, broken down, devastated, and there was nothing I could do about it.

The rest of the day was just a normal day.  I stood watch, I waited for time to go by, then I went to sleep, but I did write another journal entry while I was on watch.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

“Today was rough.  I opened all of the letters and Christmas cards from loved ones, and opened the gift from my mom.  But nothing can make up for not being there.  I’ve watched so many of my days go by.  All of them just a waste of life.  It took a while but I got used to watching my life wash away like that.  I’m numb to duty days, but there are days that are hard to watch go by.  This would be one of those days.  I’ve seen a Thanksgiving go by, I’ve seen a Halloween go by, and now I’ve seen a Christmas go by, and this one hurts the most.”

Because of this day, I learned what it means to have a family, what it means to have their support, and the pain that is caused by spending the holidays without them.  I will never forget this day, or the memory of the pain I went through.  I will never spend another holiday alone.