That's one microscopic percentage I am now part of.
A select few of us got to shadow them for a few hours while as they worked. It was a remarkable experience. (No, I didn't bring a camera - so you'll will just have to use your imaginations. Pop over to Netflix and rent The Hunt for Red October if you really need a 'fix', k? )
Running on more excitement than sleep, I got up at the crack of dawn (arriving at the meeting spot about an hour early), got on a tug boat, and joined My Sailor in his undersea adventurous life for a few hours.
It was the adventure of a life time. Possibly several dozen lifetimes. Striving to top this will most likely be futile. I tried desperately to etch every sight, sound, and smell into my memory. But, as with most things we consiously attempt to remember forever, much of it as already faded into obscure blurs of ladders, water tight doorways, narrow staircases, and whirring machines - except for that moment of seeing My Sailor for the first time in far too long. For some reason, this was an especially challenging underway for us. I'm coming to believe that it's proof that it never gets easier to say goodbye to the love of your life for extended periods of time... It just gets 'different'.
But that one brief moment That I remember vividly. Even now, a few years into "us", his smile still goes straight to my heart. Completely sincere, charming, and contagious...
As much as it was the adventure of a life time to be sure - it was also incredibly insightful.
While it was supposed to be a 'rest day' (Sorry Trainer Guy!), it was worth every awkward life jacket ladder climb, and every extra second with My Sailor. (In fact, thanks to Trainer Guy, My Sailor had no problems giving me some of his gear to climb a ladder with on my way out! I'm getting stronger by the day- and I love that.) Getting a window into the world My Sailor works and lives in for nearly half the year plus some really helped me understand him and become more sympathetic toward his work. It wasn't that I wasn't sympathetic before, but now I think I understand it on a whole different level. There is only so much anyone can understand until they are neck deep in any given scenerio, and, while I wasn't exactly 'neck deep', I was at least ankle deep.
I saw how it takes a really strong soul to handle submarine life. Occasionally we'd stumble across an off-duty sailor playing guitar in some hidden, quiet corner of the sub, giving dimension to the constant hum and thrum of the engines. Actually seeing the tiny racks filled with Sailors things - tiny reminders of home and happier times, beacons of light inside one of the world's most powerful war machines/deterrents - helped me envision what it must be like to get off a shift, lay down in there, and open a letter or a card from home...
It's a powerful vision...
Just after one afternoon, I see how the scenery never changes.
But I also bore witness to the dedication and brotherhood of the sailors, and marveled at each of them doing their job without hesitation or complaint.
Because of each of those dedicated guys (and gals on occasion), the ship runs smoothly and safely. Because of each of those people, I live in a country where I can own a house, work a job, drive a car, see a movie, own 2 massive beasts, show my hair, and enjoy my life. Because of each of those people, My Sailor gets to come home safe and sound.
Thanks, Shipmates, for the adventure of a lifetime.