Monday, November 5, 2012

Underway For Patrol

Just north of Submarine Base Bangor, a draw bridge spans the Hood Canal. Ships headed for the Pacific Ocean must pass through the bridge’s narrow opening, providing families one last opportunity to waive goodbye to their sailors before they head out to sea. One of the hardest facets of military life is the family separation. Ballistic missile submarines like the one I commanded typically deploy on patrols lasting just over two months. Six month deployments are not uncommon for fast attack submarines, and aircraft carrier battle groups sometimes deploy even longer. 

Subase Bangor is at the lower end of Hood Canal and the Hood Canal Bridge is at the upper right.
On the day of a patrol underway, our families gather on the pier to see us off. But once we're clear of our berth, wives and children dash for their cars and head north to meet us at the Hood Canal Bridge. Unless there's a traffic problem, our families usually have no problem making the 12 mile run and beating us to the bridge. When we arrive, the draw span opens and we waive to our loved ones one last time.

I'm on top of the sail, waiving.
I made five patrols out of Bangor and Kellie took a ton of pictures, but my favorite is the photo below. During one underway, after we cleared the Hood Canal Bridge, Kellie corralled the kids and managed to get them all facing the camera just in time to capture their smiling faces before the ship slipped away. 
From left to right: Jordin, Russell, Kyra, and Danielle.
The picture hangs on the wall behind desk and I look at it often.  I love the picture, but it also saddens me. It's a reminder of how much of their lives I missed by being away so often. Despite my absence, they all turned out okay. Danielle is an apparel designer. She lives in Kansas where she designs sports apparel for Under ArmorRussell, a Navy Aviation Electronics Technician, is married and living in Florida. Jordin lives at home where she works and attends college. Kyra, the youngest, is 15 and a sophomore in high school. Now that I'm retired, it's comforting to know that there's nothing I have to do that's so important that I can't drop it to help with math homework. 

This winter we're taking the kids on a Caribbean cruise, but Russell won't be joining us. He will be deployed while his pregnant wife waits at home. When he returns, he will finally get to hold his three month old daughter for the first time.


  1. I couldn't stand not being there when my child is born! Or to even wait months until you first get to hold the baby? That's got to be tough!

    And that is why I have the utmost respect for those who serve or have served in the military.

    On that note, thank you for your service, Joe!

  2. I am so glad that you get to be home now! I think the world of military families and the sacrifices they make to do the things they do. I hope that Russell's homecoming is beautiful.

  3. Such sacrifices that are made by people like you to keep us safe and free. Thanks for all that you've given up. I hope it was worth it for you.

  4. I am grateful for the sacrificed you and our other service people make. I would imagine communication with loved ones has gotten easier with technological advances, but I really don't know if that is accurate or not.

  5. That is a great picture and I can see why it saddens you but at the same time it should make you smile knowing how proud your family is of you, I can see you are really proud of them also.

  6. This one totally caught my attention. My hubby (who is pretty fantastic) is AD AF... we so know the separation thingy, going on 13 deployments with one short tour thrown in for good measure over the last 18 years :) I LOVE this post, it is so fascinating to see it from your eyes. Thanks for sharing, and for ALL the sacrifices you and your family made through the years! Fantastic picture BTW, I wish I had one like it... hmmm maybe next time ;)FYI found you at YeahWrite.

  7. Now I am curious if my grandpa went in any subs. He was in the coast guard. He loved the sea especially the areas of the NE USA