Officer Development School is now something that will forever be in my past. Certificate in hand I will never stand on the training side of this place again.
- I will never jump at the sound of “Senior chief on deck.”
- I will never be told to drop.
- I will sleep forever more inside my sheets, not on top of them.
- I will not be forced to wear a reflective belt going to and from the head; just in case there might be a run away Mack truck coming through the barracks.
- For that matter I will not be required to call a restroom a head (though I still might).
It’s the little things in life.
Monday (September 13) not a whole lot had changed after our weekend of liberty. We were still spending most of our days in briefs and taking care of individual concerns with our next duty stations. The one big surprise however was the revelation by our Senior chief that after 1600 we had full liberty every night, we were at last moving into normalcy. This we soon learned was very abnormal for ODS as typically after hours liberty only began on Wednesday of the final week. I guess even the blind can find their way occasionally.
Tuesday and Wednesday were more of the same until Wednesday at about 1700. I had learned through the grape vine that we would have liberty to see our families Wednesday night if they happened to be in town; Mine were. Angela and I had talked about the possibility, though I was not sure if it would be something I would be able to do as my section had watch that night and I wasn’t certain I could pull myself away even for a few hours. At the end of the day I was able to see them and Angela and I decided to keep the kids in the dark so I could surprise them. At about 1745 I called Angela and made my way to the Navy Lodge where they were staying. Angela saw me first and we lit up at the sight of each other, the kids were oblivious, their backs turned to the khaki sailor walking towards them. I caught my son’s eye when I was a mere three feet from him and he simply turned, saw me, took a step backward and declared matter of fact “It’s daddy.”
I lost it; quiet tears that had not been there for 5 weeks, flowed joyfully as I knelt down grabbed all four of my kids in my arms and just held them, regaining my composer and drinking in their embrace. 5 short weeks compared to the far greater sacrifices made by so many serving our country and yet still the joy of reunion is just as sweet. Daddy’s little girl in the span of about an hour became daddy’s little girl again, we hadn’t missed a heart beat. Four hours latter I was saying goodbye for one final night away from my family, headed back to my perfectly made rack in King Hall. As I lay on top of a firmly made bed I relished the short time spent with them, anxious for the next 24 hours to pass.
Thursday was a day of checking out, gathering our records, packing our bags and one final graduation practice. By 1100 I was back with my family again, free until 1730 (5:30pm) to spend with them as I saw fit. We ate lunch, played at a park and watched T.V. (what is it about kids and hotel TVs?). The Graduation Reception that night was a blur. I rose early Friday (0430, though at this point in my life that’s pretty normal), from I might add a more comfortable bed at the Navy Lodge and walked in the early morning dark back to King Hall. My family still fast asleep, I was heading to morning chow one last time with Zulu Company.
Graduation itself was a surreal experience at most. All the countless hours spent marching in formation, practicing for this moment, were cast aside forgotten as we marched tall and proud before a gathering of wives, children, parents, sibling, grandparents, and friends and family there to mark the occasion where ordinary citizens became extraordinary servants.
It is no small thing to willing give the very last of yourself towards an ideal. And yet here we stood, proud, resolute in our offering. As time passes though so did that moment and we move on, changed. As a family we found ourselves in a car headed towards Providence, RI for a weekend in each others arms before the next journey in my call towards Navy Chaplaincy began.
In His Grips