After not being able to communicate for a long time, my son called his mom this week. The conversation was short, less than three minutes, but in that short time the concerns he expressed spoke volumes. There was no talk of what he had been doing, or of what he would be doing next. There was only concern for those here at home who he had left behind.
He said he had only been ashore long enough to exchange some currency and get to a pay phone. He had no idea how long he would have on the phone because he had no idea how much money he had put in the phone. He went down the list of all of the family members starting with the oldest, and asked if everyone was okay. Once he was assured that all was well here, he said he had to get off the phone because there were about sixty other guys lined up behind him waiting to use the same phone to call home.
I could just picture it in my mind. Sixty or so young sailors anxiously awaiting their turn to call home. Since my son is a submariner, I also knew that each of these young sailors were men. Young men. And here they were in a foreign port having the adventure of their lives. For most of them, if not all, this was the first time they had ever been to this place. Most young men would have been off immediately to see the sights of this strange land and experience all it had to offer. But not these young men. You see, each of them had not been able to communicate with their loved ones for weeks. Moms, dads, wives, brothers, sisters, grandmas, and grandpas were all that were on their mind. None could even think about the excitment of visiting a foreign land until they were sure that everyone back home was okay.
It hit me then, one aspect of their sacrifice that I had not thought about before. The sacrifice of seperation must weigh heavy. Life for a submariner is one of isolation. Oh sure, they have their shipmates for company. But they have no phones, no nightly news, and no way for anyone to get word to them if mom had an accident, or grandma fell sick. And even if they did, there would be no way to get them off the boat and back home to be with family.
Seperation. The psychological impact is something few can endure, and I can only imagaine. Could I handle it? I seriously doubt it. While its true that submarines have few casualties and is generally considered one of the safer military careers, the environment of seperation takes a toll on these men like few other jobs in the world. But, like the the motto "Silent Service," you will never hear these men complain. In fact, you will never hear much about these men at all. News crews don't film from the deck of a submarine. There are no imbedded reporters telling those at home of the exploits of these brave men. Their crews are small in number, so even the homecomings don't get as much notice as those of the larger surface ships.
Although I've always known they were out there somewhere under the oceans silently serving our country. I never spent much time thinking about the sacrifice these men make until my son decided to join their ranks. Seperated from all communication, cut off from the world as we know it, they go about their jobs silently patrolling the worlds oceans and keeping tabs on our enemies. And even though we never hear much about them, their sacrifice is indeed great.