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Archive for the ‘Navy’ Category

Today I watched the hail and farewell for Adm. and Mrs. Mullen. The speeches were wonderful with sincere heartfelt appreciation. The Admiral showed everyone the love and respect he holds for Deborah, as well as his boys. He read his wife’s letter to the rest of us; the milspouses for whom Deborah Mullen has worked, advocated, and been a friend to.

“Nothing can be more trying at times than life in the military — the deployments, the stress, the uncertainty and the fear,” the admiral read. “But then, nothing born from ease and comfort can ever foster the pride and the resilience that military families exude every day. It has been my honor — my deep honor — to be a military spouse and a Navy wife, and to know so many others who wait and worry and work so hard.”

Mullen concluded the message from his wife, “Thank you for your quiet sacrifice and for empowering me to represent your concerns. It has been the greatest privilege. I will miss the life and I will miss all of you.”

It is no secret, at least from anyone who has read anything I have written about Deb Mullen, that I am a great admirer of hers. Let’s be frank, I’m a huge huge fan.

A couple of years ago, I was volunteering at a Congressional Military Family Caucus event and my post was at the desk where the nametags had been set out. Other Senior Spouses had come to the caucus, with advisors and aides trailing along behind. A woman approached the desk, and in a quiet voice let me know that the staff had misspelled her name. I looked up at a lady, with no entourage, who I recognized immediately. After we corrected her name, she sat at my table, we began to discuss with the other members of the group various aspects of military family life. At this function, only first names were used. The ideas came fast and serious, and criticism of senior military members was free-flowing. “Deborah” had to leave for a family engagement, and after she left some of the other table members were wishing she could have stayed. One point I asked didn’t any of you know who she was? No one else seemed to and were in shock when I told him who she was; Deborah Mullen. She was easy to talk to, had great ideas, and wasn’t shy about giving them.

Today I watched as the Admiral and Mrs. Mullen held hands as they were “piped ashore”. We in the military spouse community are going to miss her, are going to miss both of them. I always felt that caring for military families was more to them than just a subject for speeches. Her gentleness and compassion were brought up over and over today. She may have been gentle, but the lady is no pushover. I remember her standing in front of a huge conference and asking how do you think you can help military spouse suicides when you aren’t even counting them. She didn’t overtly “ wear the rank” but her quiet authority was undeniable. I have read of her gentleness and kindness to the families of the fallen and wounded, and the care that she takes, e-mailing and writing to many of the family members.  As Sec. Panetta said she has been at the forefront of issues, especially the special challenges of military children, she is a “powerful voice of military families”.  While none of us begrudge her a quiet retirement, I can only hope she will continue to give us the benefit of her knowledge and compassion.  In her words – we will miss her.

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Carrier at sea

The ship was moving on her stately path, on a calm sea with only a few white caps shining, when on the horizon I saw it, a ship against the horizon, in rays of sun breaking through the storm clouds ahead. A carrier, no battle group, all alone. The cruise ship, with its happily sleeping or earnestly jogging passengers, a ship designed to pamper it’s passengers with food and drink, spas and the solarium pool, keep them entertained with pools, games of all sorts – passed peacefully by the ship whose whole life will be or has been defense of it’s home, carrying the flag to ports from Naples to Norfolk, Istanbul to Reykavik, Majorca to Johannesburg.

We were alone in that sea together, one heading to Bermuda for fun and games, one heading West – maybe to home port, or to sea trials, or to find her group – I wonder, did anyone over there look over and wonder about us? How many of us cruising looked over and thought about the men and women aboard the carrier, who were working, who were away from their families? There were a few, who looked and wondered and maybe said a silent thank you.

We are out here, in our own little self contained world, cruising along with groaning buffet tables and dinging elevators, with a slight shudder the only sign other than the view out the windows that we aren’t at a hotel or resort on land. A comfortable bed and it’s not a hardship to put the shorts, tshirts and sandals of a planned week of vacation into the cute little dresser and stow the toothbrush and toiletries in that cunningly designed cabinet. But how is it in that other selfcontained world, with narrow ladders and clanging hatchways, bunks and lockers – with a galley and mess hall – instead of the lavish choices of restaurants and bars, the never ending flow of pizza and french-fries, blue drinks with little umbrellas and Moet in champagne flutes that we are enjoying.

Who was that carrier? I don’t know. But I say thank you to her crew, and to her families, the families who waved goodbye and are waiting quayside to welcome them home.

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