It was May 2016, and this is a story all about how my life got flipped- turned upside down. (Anyone else rap that inside their head? Fresh Prince anyone? No? Just me? Ok..)
My husband was leaving for Newport, Rhode Island for what would turn into fifteen weeks to embark on his dream of becoming a Naval Aviator for the United States Navy. Think Maverick from Top Gun. Oh, Officer Candidate School (OCS), our first experience as a military family. We prepared for this for weeks. We made sure he had the right t-shirts, the right socks, he could run 1.5 miles in a certain amount of time and do X amount of pushups and curl ups as well. We were prepared with stamps and paper so he could write. He had a watch for when he could have one again, and we prepared snacks and food for his drive. He was prepared, but I wasn’t prepared for the goodbye.
We woke up early, loaded his truck, and double checked we didn’t miss anything on the list. I was fine. I thought to myself, this isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. And then he turned and looked at me. And I wasn’t fine. I was excited for him, and I was excited for me, but I couldn’t help but cry because this would be the last time I got to see and touch his face in person. We hugged each other tighter than we ever have before and I followed him outside to the truck. We hugged and kissed a dozen more times before I watched him back down the driveway, onto the street, he made a right onto the next street and another right on the street after that. As he drove away and the corn fields were between us, the tears stopped and I began counting down to when we would be reunited.
Let’s recap the five things I did not expect during Officer Candidate School, but they happened to me.
- Quiet- I wasn’t ready for the goodbye, and I wasn’t ready for how quiet the house would be when I stepped back inside. It was eerily quiet. It’s not like I had never been in the house alone before, but suddenly everything is still and silent and empty.
- Mailman Friendships- I got to a first name basis with my mailman. Not the one who delivers the mail to my home, the one at the post office. I became a frequent offender there for a number of reasons. I had to buy stamps frequently as letters became our main source of communication in the beginning-and even after he got email and cell phone access, I still mailed letters daily. Mailing Candi-O boxes was an experience too (more on those in a later post). Oh and having to overnight our marriage license to him the first week. Tip: Make sure you have a certified marriage license from your county clerk’s office and not just the document your officiant signs. Maybe it’s just a Delaware thing, but we only had our copy our officiant signed and I had to go to get a more official document.
- When 12 weeks turns into 15 weeks or longer- Officer Candidate School is only 12 weeks right? Not always. There are various reasons why a candidate can “roll” which means they are put into a holding class and will rejoin another class. Typically this happens if they fail a test or for medical reasons. I was very surprised when I got a phone call late one Thursday evening from a Rhode Island phone number. My husband had only been gone for a little over two weeks and there is no communication during this phase. Unfortunately he got pink eye and would be quarantined to his room for the day, which was also an inspection day. This meant he would not be able to continue with his current class and would be “rolling” to the next class. So while 12 weeks is ideal, be prepared for there to be more. Want to hear a funny joke? Make plans when in the Navy.
- Social Media- Social Media can be your friend! Not everyone uses social media, but if you do- there are some really great support groups and pages out there. Do a search for your area and ‘military spouse’. There is even a Facebook page run by the Navy called, ‘Officer Training Command Newport’. They regularly post photos and updates of the classes while they are there. While my husband was at OCS I was lucky to find a page for friends and family of his OCS class. The girlfriends and wives then formed a spinoff group and we messaged each other every single day. Being able to share your experience with others going through the same cannot be substituted. No matter how supportive your local friends and family are, it simply is not the same. I still talk to these wonderful women to this day.
- Bad-assery- I’m pretty badass, and you are too. Your partner is embarking on this amazing opportunity to further their career and accomplish goals they’ve set to enrich their life and yours. This does not mean you are simply along for the ride. While my husband was away I made multiple lifestyle changes towards a healthier lifestyle and lost 40 lbs! You can read about how I did it here. You can further your education, or work on your health, your career, your passion. There will be times when you will be alone, and lonely, these are the times when you rely on yourself, and your strength to get you through. Reach out to a friend, in person or virtually (Again, those Facebook groups are great!) You have the power to make or break yourself.
Do you have any questions on what to expect during OCS as a spouse?