The U.S.S. George Washington...a place that I spent well over a year of my life. Having made 2 full deployments and 1 1/2 workups on her, I am very familar with this ship. All Navy Aviators have memories of the ships they have served on. We all have a certain kinship and to some extent, hatred for our beloved "homes at sea". I leaned over to my coworker today...another F/A-18 pilot...and said, "I'd give anything to be at sea right now." As expected, he responded, "Yeah, me too." Any Naval Aviator will tell you that unless you have served at sea, you don't have a right to pass judgement or speak irreverently about "being at sea". For some, being at sea illicits two permanent feelings. Either you absolutely hate it or you truly love it. Now, for most, there is a combination of feelings that are parasitic to your everyday life. If it can be explained by love and hate simultaneously...then that is the feeling.
I still remember the sounds of the ship. Like a living being...she creaked and groaned and moaned. She exuded loud metallic clangs and soft resonant vibrations. I can still remember the smells and sounds of the flight deck during launches and recoveries. Hot blasts of exhaust punctuated by cool constant sea borne wind in your face. Steam from the catapults rising above the bow and waist like small surface clouds. The loud roars of aircraft in "tension" straining to be released from the ship's grasp.
The most peaceful times were before flight ops began daily. With the midmorning sun hitting your face and the smell of sea spray...it was almost therapeutic after the previous night's landing that scared you so bad...your legs shook for an hour after the fact. Looking over the deck's edge at the rush of blue ocean passing brought many a Sailor serenity from the realization that he was miles away from a family that he missed and loved.
Being here in Iraq has given me a new found appreciation for my life in the Navy. The geography, sights and sounds here are in no way therapeutic, nor are they serene. I venture to guess that many a wife or girlfriend has felt in some way that there is another woman in their Sailor's life. That "woman" is the sea and the ship. I guess this is just one of the painful facts of Navy life that wives and girlfriends have to endure.
Fortunately for my wife and family...I miss the sea, but I miss them much, much more. In this life I've been separated from them far too much. After my time here in Iraq...the sea will call to me again...and I will "shut the door" on that chapter of my life. My wife knows that I will be a landlubber for my few years remaining in the Navy. I will always have a little bit of "sea water" in my veins but I will be where I belong and where I truly am drawn....at home with my beautiful wife and my perfect children.
R, K and G...I love you and miss you terribly.