5 Things You Learn While Deployed

Shutterstock / Oleg Zabielin
Shutterstock / Oleg Zabielin

1. The first time you step onto foreign soil, a veil will be lifted from your eyes.

Abroad, Americans have a reputation for being culturally insensitive and intolerably ignorant to the locals of whatever country you may find yourself in. This was illustrated to me perfectly in England.

Enamored by the locales that I had only seen in pictures or on the big screen up until that point in my life, I stumbled into the street. Looking back, I should have noticed that the ever-present crowd that followed us was beginning to thin, but I was stupefied by the experience of being in another country for the first time in my life. I was jarred from my daytime reverie by the piercing wail of a horn. I turned my head sharply to the right, just in time to dodge a speeding car. Apparently the driver didn’t consider misplaced American pedestrians a suitable hindrance to his road rage. I was about to go on one of my patented rants, but I realized my own mistake. I had unconsciously assumed that the roads in London were like those in America. We go from left to right on our roads.

You don’t know your surroundings. At all. No matter how similar they may look to the ones from back home, there is always a surprise lurking behind the reassuring comfort. Stay on your toes, and watch your six.

2. Women are the same no matter what country you’re in.

I don’t mean as far as personalities, experiences, or worldliness goes. But when it comes to attracting them, it’s generally the same.

Open with a question or innocuous comment. Let the beginning run its course. Transition into a topic you’ve gleaned from observing her during the conversation or what you can ascertain based on her appearance. Is she into music? Sports? Books? Hell, even pop culture, God forbid. From here, you’re on your own. You need wit, intuition and a degree of eloquence. Unless you’re in a bar at midnight and the alchemy of hormones and Hennessy has worked it’s seductive magic.

I had a lot of friends asking me what it was like talking to women overseas. The answer? About the same as back home. I had my fun in Bahrain, went lukewarm in Dubai, lost my mind in Singapore, and struck out famously and embarrassingly in London.

3. The loneliest night of your life will be when a loved one dies and you have no way to be with your family.

No matter how separated you may seem, we’re all connected to our families by God, the universe, or whatever you may call it.

One of my Aunts died in July. The night I found out I was working late, stenciling piping and sweeping the green off the deck. I found out from my Mother. My knees buckled, my eyes misted and I sat catatonically for about 10 minutes. Gathering myself, I ventured topside to one of my private spots (yes the do exist onboard), and wept unabashedly. I felt selfish for not being there, unable to perform my duty to my family because my duty to my country had taken me out into the middle of the abyss known as the Persian Gulf. After all of this I felt a bit better, if still grief-stricken, and remembered that everybody back home understood what I was doing and why I had to do it. Whether it was to serve my country nobly, to become a man, or to simply seek out new experiences, I could rest easy knowing they understood, and held nothing against me.

4. Training has always been a constant in my life.

It’s seen me through being grounded as a kid, killing time when bored as an emotionally charged adolescent, and, most importantly, through those lean, lonely periods where companionship was few and far between, namely after breakups. Whether doing pushups on the polished hardwood floor of my living room with a dusty, weatherworn 45 pound weight on my back after my first love left me, or doing pull ups in the snow, sullen and very drunk after getting my version of the Dear John letter, after a return from sea no less, physical training has been a stalwart pillar of strength to lean on and rest on. I can honestly say, I’d be dead without it. I’m not only strengthening my body, but reinforcing the heartstrings that keep us all together no matter how far we may be deployed.

5. “Love is ephemeral and elusive.”

I must have used that line a thousand different times, in a thousand different contexts. I’m here to tell myself today to shut the fuck up. Quit with the melodrama, stop embellishing your pain for the sake of your ego, and quit thinking that you need to prolong whatever emotional torture you’re currently enduring for the sake of “bleeding for your art”. It’s bullshit. All of it. Life is so much better when you live optimistically, enthusiastically, and positively. Being depressed for the sake of vanity and an image you’re trying to perpetuate to the world is juvenile and asinine. We’ve all been there, particularly as teenagers, no matter what clique we belonged to. But reality is, after high school ended and the social boundaries we all ignorantly obeyed for 4 years fell to the onslaught of reality and the fear of our own uncertain futures, we need to stop. Stop. Just stop. You don’t have to be somebody you’re not in order to fulfill some destiny that doesn’t exist. Be you. To a fault TC mark

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