On the surface, being called a Lifer could be construed as an insult, but that’s only in the mind of someone who has no intention of staying in the military any longer than they have to. I’ll also share that many of those who used the word “Lifer” as a negative wished they had chosen that life in their waning years.
Being a Lifer is a commitment to making the military a career, sticking it our for at least 20 years. I made that decision, with my Wife’s concurrence, in 1973, just five years after we were married. At that point she had only experienced two commands with me – NAVCOMMSTA Okinawa, and USDAO Rome, Italy. You wouldn’t think that was enough to make a career decision, but she did.
During the course of ‘her’ career we were sent to some interesting commands, only a few of which were centered in and around San Diego, California. Even so, San Diego quickly became her favorite port.
Our time in San Diego meant that I was stationed aboard one ship or another and spent a lot of time at sea, away from home, six months at a time. Perhaps that’s the part she really enjoyed. I don’t know. She never said. Even if that’s true, I think the larger part of the attraction was the life-long friends we met along the way and the demeanor of people who live on military bases. There’s a certain camaraderie throughout a military complex that we never experienced anywhere else. Maybe it’s just us. Who knows? We just like it.
Even now, when we travel, we plan our trips to include stops at various military bases along our route, staying in temporary quarters, and enjoying the atmosphere of those surroundings.
Although the sound of jets flying by on a Naval Air Station make her eyes sparkle, it’s the underlying aroma of machinery and fresh paint of a Naval Base, like San Diego, that truly has her heart. There’s just something about it that triggers good memories.
This was brought home to me yesterday when we were watching an episode of “The Good Witch”, there was a moment where the wife suggested they just up anchor and move to France. The husband, a doctor, gave it a little thought and agreed they should do that. After another brief pause, the wife reported that they didn’t really have to go, but it was really nice to know he was willing to make such a move. It was a test. He passed.
That interaction prompted me to ask Diane, “of all the places we’ve been in our lives, where would you most like to live?”
Without hesitation, she said, “San Diego. Not in the city, but not far from the ocean. That way we can drive by and smell the ships once in a while.”
I’d never thought about it that way, but that’s really kinda what we do. We smell the ships.
It’s just a little bit intoxicating.