Today is our 15th Valentine’s Day together, and next month will bring our 14th wedding anniversary.
This has been a wild and crazy ride, to put it mildly. Shortly after we stood in front of family and friends and became one, you waved goodbye as I headed into the airport terminal in Jackson, Mississippi, bound for basic training. Since then, my career has taken us from coast to coast, up to Alaska (twice!) and for the past few years here in the frozen north of New England. We’ve called seven different places “our home” in all these years, knowing all the while that it would become a memory in too short a time. Another address to remember for the next round of paperwork, another stepping stone on the path of our life together.
For the better part of my career, I was stationed on cutters, patrolling the waters of the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, the Alaskan Inside Passage, South Pacific, the Great Lakes, and even the Arctic. Year after year, you stood at the pier with tears in your eyes as we cast off lines and set a course for the next mission. Year after year, you swallowed your worries and loneliness and painted on a brave face for our four children. What is often overlooked in the life of a military family is that “real life” at home didn’t stop while I was gone for 7+ months out of every year. Our kids still had school, dance, hockey, baseball, cheer, and everything else that goes along with life with four children. You tackled all this and more without any support system. Thousands of miles from our families, you had to lean on strangers that became friends, and some of those friends have become our chosen family.
You, mostly by yourself, taught our children right from wrong, how to tie their shoes, how to fix their lunches, and how to help their younger siblings. You taught them about life, and showed them what a mother’s love truly looks like.
You did all these incredible things that enabled us to live the life we’ve had, and you have sacrificed more in your life than any person should. We haven’t been able to spend every Valentine’s Day together, that’s for sure. In everything you’ve done, you put our family first and yourself last. That is a simple thing to say, but it is a much tougher task to actually live every day. You have somehow managed to embrace this life with the grace of a servant heart, the unwavering devotion of a saint, and the ferocity of a lioness.
One of the things I treasure most from those years I spent on ships is how you’d do everything possible to slow down the clock when I was home in between patrols. Knowing you were in a losing battle against the clock and the patrol schedule, you valiantly fought against Father Time anyway. You guarded our time together fiercely, and you managed to bring me back from the edges of depression, loneliness, and feeling like a squatter in my own life. You’ve held me close, pushed me forward, smoothed a few of my edges, and shored me up when I couldn’t stand on my own. You’ve been my lighthouse all these years, reliable and unmoving, my shining beacon of hope guiding me back home to you. One day, I’ll stop being a chicken and get that lighthouse tattoo I’ve been talking about.
These past couple of years, I’ve had the immense joy of watching you flourish as you conquered your health goals and took on new professional challenges. I hope to live up to the standard you’ve set for support and inspiration these past 15 years. You’re better than me at most things, but I promise I will always keep working to empower you just as you have empowered me.
On that note, you might be as surprised as I was to learn that Webster lists “marriage” as a noun in their dictionary. I had to chuckle a bit when I saw that because you and I know that marriage, like love, is a verb.
It’s an action that started when we said our vows and it’s continued to this day. Marriage is a merging of souls, intertwining one with the other, and it demands work every day to strengthen that bond. This daily labor of love is daunting yet powerful, and there’s literally no one else that I want by my side through it all. The actions of love and marriage are worth more than spending Valentine’s Day together. You are everything that I am not, and your unwavering support and love are the only reason I have a life worth living.
You are, quite simply, what I treasure above all else in this world.
As we prepare this year for my next duty station, readying ourselves for a new “home” in a new place, I’m excited to face the challenges that lie ahead of us. Most of all, I’m excited to have you, my feisty and beautiful Valentine, by my side through it all. Here’s to many more Valentine’s Days together.
I love you babe.
John is a member of the military in his 14th year of active duty. In his off-duty time, he serves as an Engineer for the Fairfax Fire Department in addition to coaching the Fairfax Patriots Youth Football program. John is married to a woman who is way too good for him, and together they’re doing their best to prepare their four children to conquer this crazy world.