Change is many things. The leaves change in the autumn and fall to the ground. Then the ice comes, and comes, and stays. Ice seems eternal, but that first warm breath of change comes, in the spring. The first warmth is all the more precious because of the long darkness that is winter.
There are many reasons my husband and I chose to separate from the Marines, and I think that long cold winter may have had something to do with it… We married halfway through his second enlistment, and it was bliss. Until we got to (or I got to) the Logistic Base where he was stationed. My husband, Eric’s MOS was tanks. The depot that made the tanks was a state away and his command was in VA. So the back and forth was constant.
Eric realized early on that the silence of his absence, while sharp, was not something that I really minded. Sure it sucked, but it was necessary and were lucky enough that sometimes I traveled with him. Eric’s experience was different and the absence was much more difficult to him, which gave birth to the idea of leaving the Corps.
We were expecting orders since his career had always been stable, but then orders kept getting changed. Several times we were told he was deploying, which ended up being cancelled several weeks later. The emotional roller coaster was starting to get rough.
We discussed future plans which included him attending sergeant’s course. The stars just never seemed to align because deadlines came and went without him being aware. He applied for a higher security clearance and discovered that additional paperwork was necessary which wasn’t required before. Of course, they needed it by Friday and he wasn’t due home til the following week to sign it.
I was busy integrating and settling from moving. He had no idea what a wife was supposed to do, and neither did I. There was a lot of fumbling. I wish I had found out about blogging BEFORE we married. So that settled that basically. No security clearance. No Sergeants course.
The next course of action for Eric was looking into becoming a warrant officer. I really just wanted him to be happy. I knew he was becoming dissatisfied with his place. He started asking and got the ball rolling. Then came the awesome news from the commandant. No more than a certain % of his body could be covered with tattoos. Warrant offers… none on their arms. Well, so much for that idea. The vast majority of Eric’s arms and torso are covered in ink. Poo.
I knew for months he was thinking things over. He would be really quiet on drives and I catch him staring off into space. The last catch came and it was a doozy. He way Eric explained it to me is come enlistment time there are three “zones”. The first one, it’s still a little early zone but you might still be accepted. The second, just right zone. This is where you’d better have everything done. The third and last is you’re too late buddy, you might get it but you probably won’t. Time to make some plans.
Eric was months away from his just right zone when THEY SWITCHED DATES. So instead of being juuuust right. He was in the last zone. At this point we were both stressed to the max. A few weeks of frantic activity occurred. Phone calls, emails, papers were signed. Then one day we decided to take a drive. Somewhere between Moultrie and nowheresville Eric looked over at me and said, “I’m not going to re-enlist.” In a single second I thought a million things, including unhelpful thoughts about our stability, his honor, and a huge WTF. But we’d been talking about it a little bit together. So I looked over and told him that I wanted him to be happy with his career choice. I knew he wanted to achieve a greater good. And that we could do that, together.
[Editorial Note: This is a great article discussing what goes on in many marriages when the effects of the draw down are being actively applied. Many of you may have, or quite possibly will, be facing what this family has gone through. If you see similarities between your Marine and Eric, here’s some additional tools to help you on your journey:
Course information and deadlines are available online at the Training and Education Command websites. Your Marine can also request this information from their Operations (S3) shop.
The Marine Corps has a specific number of Sergeants and Staff Sergeants assigned. Those numbers change depending on the needs of the Corps, which are all dependent on retirement, promotion, medical discharge, conduct discharges, reaching their end of active service, and more. Right now the Marine Corps is downsizing, so many families are being affected by the constant movement of zones: above, in zone and below zone, when Holly refers to “date switching”.
Security clearances are generally not given to E1-E5, but many receive the opportunity for clearance upon promotion to SSgt (E6) or if the Marine has a billet which requires a secret clearance for their MOS (intel, etc)]