Another untraditional post about Marine Corps life. But I know many are struggling with recruiting duty or are unsure what it holds for them. Hopefully this helps!
My husband has been in the Marine Corps since 2006. Back then he was just my friend I kissed twice, kind of strung along, and never intended on marrying. The 9/11 Attacks were still fresh and very open sores for the majority of us at the time. Operation Iraqi Freedom was still a “hot zone.” I was naive and not at all sure what he was doing, I even tried to tell him it was a bad idea, but he didn’t listen. He had signed the papers, raised his right hand, and he was set to head to Parris Island on September 11, 2006.
I received a letter or two from him while he was away at boot camp. They led me to believe life was miserable there and he couldn’t wait to be done and back in Baltimore. I laughed a little and thought, “Serves you right you jarheaded moron.” Time would pass and paths would cross and I’d end up standing in the church I grew up in marrying that marine. The one I pretty much berated about his “decision” to be a marine.
Fast forward the tape, press pause, and imagine my face as I’m standing in Target (at 35 weeks pregnant, mind you…) when my husband calls me from Recruiting School to tell me we are moving to Wyoming.
I should mention – we are from Pennsylvania and Maryland. We had a by name request for Dallas, TX. Funny how stuff works out.
When I figured out where exactly on the map I was moving I broke down a little bit, regained focus, and put on my game face. At that point we had gone through 3 deployments in 4 years. Recruiting Duty was going to be fine.
My husband, God bless him, owns property in the great land of Ignoranceisblissville. It took him almost 26 years, but he just paid off the mortgage on his house there. The whole time he kept saying, “It’s all in our attitude. If we have a negative attitude, we will get negative results. It will be great. I’ll be home, and not deploying.” Well, at least recruiting school taught him how to sell anything.
With a 9 day old baby attached to my boob and a very sore downstairs I watched as our home was packed up. We spent the last night on an air mattress by our fireplace. It was cold, it echoed, and I cried myself to sleep. Convincing myself it was just the post-partum hormones.
We stopped off to visit family and arrived in Wyoming on February 2. Because we couldn’t visit prior to moving (you know … Hugely pregnant and all…) and because I refused to live in a hotel until we found a place – I threw in the towel and rented a townhome we could afford. All through faxing and emails. We walked in and my heart sank. It was small. Smaller than I expected.”1100 sq feet including the garage” small. The neighborhood looked okay so I just sucked it up and accepted it. Our yellow lab was in full panic mode and peed all over our new house as I was upstairs using the restroom after our 37 hours in the car. Our newborn was SCREAMING violently. She had had enough. I walked downstairs to see mass amounts of dog urine and my husband heeding warning to watch where I step because he couldn’t clean it up because he was trying to soothe the baby. I kicked myself into overdrive, grabbed the baby, threw her into a quick swaddle and once she was quiet I helped finish cleaning up the pee mess. And then it happened … The unraveling that I knew was coming. No longer could I bury it deep down inside and smile my way through it.
I grabbed my newborn baby, sat down on the stairs, and I bawled. I bawled and bawled and bawled. It was my moment of defeat. I’ve been through my parents’ divorce at 14, heartbreak, child birth, have experienced a lot of pain and sadness over my 24 years … But that pain, in that moment, was the absolute worst thing I’ve felt. I couldn’t hold it together anymore. And my husband stood there as he watched his wife of three years and best friend completely fall apart. He tried to soothe me by saying I will feel better when our things arrive (I didn’t …) or that I will feel better after I get some good rest. (I didn’t …) I cried myself to sleep that night. There I was 1900 miles away from any shred of comfort I knew or had become familiar with. I had no idea what the next chapter of life had in store. I was angry at my husband, angry (for the first time) with the Corps, and so bitterly afraid of what recruiting duty was going to require of me.
While preparing for recruiting duty I read a few blog posts and forums. Most of the blog posts were written by spouses who had done their 3 years and are back in the ‘normalcy’ of Marine Corps life. The forums were just panels of grab a knife and cut your wrist depression. A few of my friends have texted me frantically as their husbands are in recruiting school or headed that way. And I thought, “There’s not enough for spouses getting ready for recruiting duty.” So here it is …
This is the “Only a Year Into It Opinion on Recruiting Duty.”
Let me start by saying that our situation is vastly different. We live 7 hours away from the command and my husband works in a one man recruiting station. He bought a fish to try and soothe the loneliness, but he travels so much that the fish died in seriously 2 weeks. I won’t let him take our dog to work for this very reason. He’d probably forget all about him. My husband travels about 3 days out of the week. Since we’ve moved here he’s been out of town or overnight at least once weekly. For one month straight he would go overnight Thursday and then turn around and have to go overnight on Sunday as well. This is probably because we live in the middle of nowhere and he has SO much ground to cover.
We just had our first holiday (Thanksgiving) here and because they’re having a hard time recruiting marines of a certain gender (groan) he had Thanksgiving Day off, but worked Friday and Saturday. Meanwhile my Instagram was blowing up with photos of fellow marine families basking in the Thanksgiving 96 holiday. Cutting down trees and drinking egg nog. Frolicking in their happiness. I wanted to stab them all.
The best way to go about this is Q&A:
Q: Is it true you never see your husband?
A: Depends on the situation. Personally, no I never see my husband. He’s replacing a recruiter who had a rough 2 years here and ended up leaving his post early. They say it gets better in the 2nd year, but because my husband is cleaning up a mess right now, I don’t see it being better until 18-24 months in.
Q: Would you rather him be deployed?
A: When I’m mad at him I say that. When I’m angry about recruiting I say that. But my husband was here for the birth of his daughter and will be here for the birth of his son. If he was in Afghanistan he’d be “cutting the cord” via Skype. He’d NEVER see his kids. NEVER tuck them in. NEVER lay on the couch Sunday mornings and watch ESPN cuddled up in his daughter’s blankie while she plays with his scruffy face. Oh and as far as his comfort goes – my husband isn’t sleeping in a 30 degree b-hut in the craphole that is Afghanistan. He sleeps in a warm bed each night with no sounds of mortars going off left and right. So truthfully? No. I wouldn’t rather him deployed.
Q: Why did you choose recruiting?
A: Same reason most sergeants go on b billets. To get promoted to staff sergeant. He got selected this year. So here’s hoping for meritorious promotion to gunny. Why recruiting specifically? He didn’t want MCT or DI. Personal choice.
Q: Can you do a by name request?
A: You can try. We make a joke that by name requests only work if the Commandant himself requests you. Here’s the truth, as per usual of the USMC, unit readiness supersedes your idea of what is best for your family. They need what they need and your spouse’s contract states that s/he will give the USMC everything they ask (and a little bit more) because they’re marines and that’s their job. And, as I learned, a CWO3’s request for my husband doesn’t override the dire need of a commanding officer elsewhere in the district.
Q: Will they try to assign you to a district you request on ‘the list?’
A: Sure. But don’t be bummed if you aren’t anywhere close to where you wanted to be. See above.
Q: What’s ‘the list?’
A: A magically uplifting idea like the magic wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia. A paper of possibility and wonderment. A paper that you and your spouse will argue over for an hour while filling it out. Honestly it’s a wish list. And it’s not worth fighting over. Fill the damn thing out with your preferences and wishes and hand it back to the instructor. Wash your hands of it and walk away. It’s not worth fighting over.
Q: Do they get holidays off? Or leave?
A: A lot of factors play in this. So I won’t answer it any other way than it depends on his performance, the RSS’s needs, his SNCOIC, his SGTMAJ, and his CO. Expect to accrue a lot of leave days for that move back to the fleet/squadron when the 3 year tour is up.
Q: What are their schedules like?
A: A great recruiter *in his first 18 months* is in the office by 7:30AM fresh from the gym, showered, shaved, and in uniform. He’s making calls from 6PM to 8PM and he is the last guy to leave. He works non-stop, even after making mission, and he’s constantly looking for the next contract. He breathes, eats, and sleeps recruiting for the Marine Corps. He shows up sick, he shows up tired, he shows up. If the appointment he had at 7:30 runs over to 9:30PM he’s cool with it. His first and last phone calls are to his SNCOIC. I’m told this will change in year two and definitely in year three.
Q: How do I handle it as a spouse?
A: Well, you’ll break down the first few weeks. Stress out. Fight a lot. Want to kill one another. Cuss more than you should. All of your crap boils to the surface. It’s like the breakthrough in a year of therapy sessions all packed into the first 3 months. All that crap you guys push under the rug deployment after deployment and training after training finally comes up. And it’s like your sewer backing up in your yard. There’s no throwing sod over it and pretending it’s not there. Recruiting duty takes those bandaids you’ve delicately placed and rips them off fast and hard. How do you handle recruiting as a spouse? You deal. For the first time in a good number of years you shred the ignorance is bliss persona we are so good at carrying and you get dirty and you deal with it. And overall you support your marine. Support until you’re tired and support some more. Also you should workout at least 2 times a week. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. And happy people just don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.
A few weeks ago I sat in a room of spouses at our Marine Corps Ball weekend. A recruiter’s spouse sitting across from me was bitter and angry and hated recruiting. It poured out of her. Later on we found out they’re leaving and they had only been here 6 months. My jaw hit the floor. I flashed back to my husband and I at 6 months and I recalled how hard it was. How often we fought. How lonely I was. How angry I was. And I wanted to walk up to her and say, “It really does get better…” The ball weekend was eye opening for me. For the first time I saw how perspective determines how successful you are on recruiting duty. Half of that room reeked of bitterness, the other half smelled like hopefulness.
But the definitive moment was when a group of 3 guys were recognized for their successful 3 years on recruiting duty. They were all given a chance to speak and the final one choked back a few tears and looked at his wife and said, “Recruiting duty was my wife’s honeymoon. She deserves this more than me. She was faithful to me. She was patient and loving and there is no way I could have made it without her.” I felt like Moses seeing God in the burning bush. It was an epiphany. I can make or break how successful he is here. So I’m going to help my husband get that meritorious promotion to Gunnery Sergeant. And I’m going to suck it up and push through these next 2 years.
As with all things, this too shall pass.
Recruiting duty is 3 years. Don’t let it destroy you, your spouse, your marriage, or your family. The Marine Corps is an awesome thing, but it isn’t worth our demise.
Any questions? I’ll try to answer!