USS Memphis (SSN 691) has left Groton for parts not-to-be-disclosed-here, on a six month Campaign to Pwn Our Nation's Enemies. (The Navy officially styles it as a "deployment.")
From a personal perspective, this was what took me from "I'll keep an open mind" to "re-enlistment: DO NOT WANT." Once it became clear that extending my service in the Navy would mean spending half a year away from the shores of my home nation, and away from my friends and family, I knew I was done. I remain unquestionably convinced that it was the right decision for me to take.
That said, it is an undeniable truth that while I celebrated the beginning of another year of my life, many of my friends were headed into harm's way. This is a thought that weighs heavily on me as I sit here in New London, so close to where they were only a couple of days ago. I've referred to them here by pseudonyms - CornFed, PrisonBreak, DoomSlayer, BilgeMonkey, LevelSeventy, just to name a few. But they're more than that; they're the stuff of some memories that span the whole range of emotion throughout the three and a half years I served on Memphis.
And that isn't the only way it's personal. When we returned to Groton in early April, we received a new culinary specialist. His last name was one familiar to me; I knew his brother and one of his sisters way, WAY back in the day. When I look out the window in my room at my parents' house, I can see the house of his parents. It's another reminder that our nation's freedom is preserved by those who willingly sacrifice theirs. I met the young CS before I left the boat, and we had a nice chat. It is a reassuring thought that Memphis will carry the spirit of Northport to the fight.
Many have congratulated me simply for having faithfully served in our armed forces. Until this, I always saw it as no big deal. But tonight, as I sit here on the other side, I understand that. To all my friends who can't see this now, I quote the words of one Alistair Leslie Graham: "Big up yourself. Keep it real. Safe."