I love the Navy. Good thing, huh, since I’ve been around it for my entire life! I was even born at a naval hospital. I joke with Kurt that I should have been issued a sea bag the instant I popped my head into this world.
There are lots of things that are hard about being a Navy wife, but there are also things that warm your heart each and every day.
Every morning and every evening, the base plays music while the flag is raised and lowered. In the morning, it’s the national anthem at 8am sharp. Evening colors depends on the time of sunset, so tonight it began at 7:37pm. We live so close to the base that we hear colors every time the music plays, and Grace tells me almost every morning, “Mommy, I heard America singing before you got up!”
I love coming out of my neighborhood and turning onto the main drag. Right in front of me is an enormous flagpole on which is flying the Stars and Stripes. You can see that flag for miles around, and it would make even the coldest heart swell in patriotic ferver to see it flapping in the wind against the backdrop of the Newport Bridge.
Running errands in this town always makes me smile. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing sailors in uniform. Today Kurt and I went to lunch at a local Italian restaurant, and it wasn’t long till two men in khakis showed up as well. Drive to any store on the south end of the island, and you will find a person in uniform.
Being on base fulfills my need to see lots of people in uniform, and it’s something I will sorely miss when we move on to our next duty station. If you’re stationed on a ship, the uniform of the day is generally one’s coveralls. But you can’t wear those coveralls off base for any reason, and most of the time you can’t even wear your coveralls off the ship. To get to and from work, most folks will wear civilian clothes and change into their coveralls once they get to the ship. Seeing people in uniform can be somewhat of a rarity on most bases because of that. Here in Newport, the uniform of the day is khakis for Chiefs and officers, and service whites for enlisted folks. This gives me plenty of opportunity to see tons of folks in uniform as I go on the base nearly every single day.
The service white uniform (white shirt and white trousers) and service blue uniform (black shirt, black trousers, black tie) are actually going away entirely. The Navy has decided to make khakis the default service uniform for officers and Chiefs, and for enlisted, a whole new uniform has been designed. The new uniforms are causing a bit of a stink in the Navy, though, so we’ll see how long they last. See, the new uniforms allow lower-ranking sailors to wear a khaki shirt with black pants. Why is this bad? Khaki uniforms have been an honor to wear, saved for either officers or sailors who served the Navy so long and so well that they gain their peers’ respect and are promoted to Chief Petty Officer. But now everyone will be able to wear khaki, from the highest-ranking admiral to the lowest-ranking seamen (don’t giggle — it’s what they’re called!!).
Back in the 1970s, however, the Navy authorized lower-ranking sailors to wear the same dress blues uniform as the Chiefs and the officers. HERE you can see a photo of my father wearing the uniform in question when he was a Petty Officer First Class in 1975. The problem was, it was so hard to differentiate the lower-ranking sailors from the Chiefs and the officers, and you had to be right up on someone before you knew whether you were supposed to be saluting them or not. Eventually the Navy realized it made a mistake, and those uniforms were retracted, and the traditional “crackerjacks” were reinstated.
I love seeing Kurt salute people. I mean, I see him in uniform all the time, but it’s sort of gotten to the point where it just looks like he’s wearing a business suit in my eyes. I don’t actually see it, if that makes sense. But it’s really driven home when he has to salute someone, and that doesn’t happen all that often. It does here, more than on most bases, since this base is something like 90% officer, where the Navy in general is 75% enlisted and 25% officer.
One day I was dropping Kurt off at work, and an officer in dress whites, who was obviously completely confused about where she was supposed to be, approached Kurt to ask directions. She was an ensign, the lowest-ranking officer, and she had probably just come from graduating Officer Candidate School. She was still so new to the Navy that she totally forgot that Kurt was supposed to salute her, and she started in on asking her questions before he could snap off a salute. He saluted her anyhow, and she had to stop talking in order to return the salute. The whole exchange had an “awww how cute!” quality about it, at least for me.
Baby officers, they crack me up.
Yes, I love the Navy. I really can’t help it. The blue and the gold, “Honor Courage Commitment,” “Haze Grey and Underway” — it all flows through my blood. Seeing a ship anchored out in the harbor thrills me to my core. Even the scent of fuel that lingers on my husband’s body when he’s assigned to a ship is comforting to me. Thankfully, I will never have to live without the Navy. Because Kurt is planning on retiring after a minimum of 20 years’ service, we will always have access to the Navy. And that to me is such a wonderful thing.