VA Blogs.gov by VAntage Point Contributor
On Nov. 11 each year, Americans honor Veterans for their willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Being a Veteran myself, I know that there are many facets to how military service impacts an individual. Some of these facets are so nuanced that they might seem insignificant. To people who have never had an immediate family member or close friend in the military, these impacts could be invisible.
Nuanced and seemingly insignificant as they are, these impacts are anything but. They add up over years of service and they can change the entire course of the service member’s life.
The way to learn about these not-so-visible impacts of military service is by listening to Veterans’ stories. In this vein, I’m offering my story. It is also my wife’s story and, together, it is the story of a dual-military couple balancing their commitment to the Coast Guard with their commitment to each other in the months before and after our nation was turned upside down on Sept. 11, 2001.
Sara and I graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in the spring of 2000. We had been dating since our third-class (sophomore) year, and under the Academy’s “buddy program,” we were able to be stationed in the same location. I was assigned to Coast Guard Cutter Alert, and Sara was assigned to Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast, both based in Astoria, Oregon.
The first eighteen months as a junior officer are busy. You are learning new jobs, attending vocational schools, and working toward watch qualifications in order to become a productive member of the crew. I was working toward qualifications for engineer of the watch and deck watch officer. I also had a number of collaterals such as damage control assistant, morale officer, and fueling officer. Sara was a dedicated deck watch officer and served as a boarding team member, law enforcement officer, and morale officer.
Patrols are the lifeblood of a cutter and where it performs the Coast Guard’s mission. With our ships being the only 210-foot cutters in Astoria, Alert and Steadfast worked in port and starboard rotations. This meant one ship would be in port while the other was running fishery patrols and drug interdiction operations in the waters between British Columbia and Central America. Each patrol lasted six to eight weeks[…]