You're already thinking "I've heard that recruiting duty is horrible. What could there possibly be to love about it?"
When my husband called to tell me he was put on the HSST list (or as I like to call it, the hit list), then later told me he was selected for Recruiting Duty (RD), I was at a loss. I am a researcher. I like to know the facts, the opinions, the stories about everything and anything that I am about to get in to, whether it is sewing, a book club, or marrying a Marine. But there were no books about RD.
The spouses I knew who had ‘survived’ the duty only had horrible tales to share. I searched on Facebook and found a few groups, which I joined and eagerly looked for some positives I could look forward to. Because, let me tell you, you hear a lot more negatives than positives. In fact, I got worse looks when I said we were heading to RD than when I told people he was deploying.
Says something, don’t you think?
Even with the onslaught of negative things being launched at me – he’ll NEVER be home, he’ll ALWAYS be stressed, there’s NO family support, small towns are HORRIBLE, they almost ALL cheat on their wives, they get SO mean – I refused to listen. Well, okay, I listened, but I refused to let the thoughts affect my mindset going in. There is always something to complain about, and there is always someone loudly willing to tell you why he or she is miserable.
I heard the same things before we moved to Hawaii. The locals HATE the Marines. You’ll get island fever in WEEKS. NO ONE will come visit you. EVERYTHING is so expensive. You’ll NEVER get a job. I just wanted to stop them and go GUYS. It’s HAWAII. Let me at least get there! If you go some place expecting horrible things, you’ll never notice the good. You’ll just notice all those horrible things, right? Also, none of those things about Hawaii were true for us.
So I accepted that he’d be working crazy hours and not be home often. Cool, because last year he was really only home 3 months. I can handle being a solo mom. At least he’ll be home at night, right? I begged him to request a place around four hours from my parents – close enough for a weekend visit, but they aren’t just going to show up. (Love you mom and dad!) I told him I knew that he could request the town they live and there could be 18 openings and the Corps could say, yeah, how about Alaska? But I needed to know he would try. After that, I just had to wait.
We got lucky and got a town 4.5 hours from my parents. He’s at a PCS, which means not only are we not at a base, but we aren’t even in a big town. We are in a small town in Tennessee, and I have found two other Active Duty families in town so far. (I’m not searching for them, but you get asked where you moved from, you get asked why you came to Tennessee from Hawaii, conversations start.) He is not home very often and he is stressed a lot of the time.
But you know what?
I don’t hate Recruiting Duty. Yes, I hate parts of it. Yes, I wish he were home more. Yes, I wish he were less stressed. There are parts I desperately wish I could change. But those are mostly parts that affect him and his daily routine. As for the girls and I? We like it so far. We are only about seven months in, but they say the first year is the worst.
Here are the things I love about recruiting duty:My older daughter has made some great friends, and is at a great school. She loves being able to share her stories of living in North Carolina and then Hawaii. She loves (and I love) that there is not a high chance every day that someone will come in to announce they are moving somewhere very far away. She loves that the Brownie troop she joined has been together since kindergarten. She has realized how strong she is at almost eight thanks to her tales of daddy leaving so many times for so long causing such awe and confusion in her friends, who don’t have to do that.
I love that my girls get to see what life off a base is like. They get three years of not worrying if daddy is going to suddenly have to leave. Sure, he might not tuck them in to bed every night, but they know he comes home every night and will come home every night. They get to know what a normal life is, so that when we make it back to the Fleet, they can appreciate both how lucky we are, and yes, what we are missing out on.
Our little town is great. Sure, it could use a Target, but really, it is a good thing there isn’t one in town. It lives up to a small Southern town’s reputation for charm and friendliness. I have not met a single person who isn’t supportive of the military, and my husband teases me every time we do lunch and someone pays for it when I tear up. Every day, I find something new about town and am almost always impressed. Also, I haven’t seen a strip club yet. And I have only seen one check cashing/quick loan place and about four tattoo parlors. WAY fewer than I saw outside all the bases!
We are about an hour from the other RD families, but I have already made friends with one wife – and the first time we met was when she came to help us move! The poor FRO might be tired of me already, but as we speak, he’s helping me get in touch with spouses to form a team for an 8K coming up. There are four of us on it already, and we’ve never met. We’re far apart, but that hasn’t stopped us from reaching out to each other.
I’m in a local book club that I got asked to join by a mom I met in my little one’s music class. The first meeting I got the ‘who are you?’ looks, and since then, it’s like I’ve been here for ages. The next meeting is at my house.
Since I found a great, reasonably priced preschool for my toddler that didn’t have a waitlist as long as my arm, I even get to sneak lunch dates in with my husband – though sometimes, it’s just me bringing lunch to his office and giving him a kiss before he has to go to some meeting.
A lot of these things are certainly things that happen everywhere. But it’s nice to not have the military hovering at the back of everything. There’s no talk at book club about husbands deploying or the latest base gossip. There’s no my-husband-is-more-important-than-your-husband rank game, because there’s no rank. There’s no catty wife dependa snobbery. I can even go to the store in my pajamas. (I don’t ... but I totally could.) It is nice to simply live our lives, not worrying about so many little things you don’t even realize you think about when you live on or near a base, when your husband is in the Fleet.
I will say, RD is much easier because of my husband’s attitude towards it. I cannot brag enough about this, but when he checked in and his SNCOIC asked him what he wanted to leave RD with, he said everything he came with – his family and his career. He has, once or twice, been short tempered at home, but he’s been very good about taking a breath as soon as he realizes and calming down. He has missed some things, but he’s been good about being involved however he can, even if it is just sending me a text message to read to the girls.
It has been a pleasant surprise to not have nearly as many complaints as I was warned that I would have. I think if I had let all those horrible warnings influence my thoughts going in to this, I would be writing a very different story. I don’t mean to make it sound like Recruiting Duty is a breeze, and we’re having the time of our lives. He and I both miss the fleet, but it is a nicer break than I certainly thought it would be. I know not everyone has this experience, and I know some have vastly different experiences. But I also know that you shouldn’t form your opinions based on other’s experiences. And you should never go in to something expecting the worst.
Samantha Dean is married to a Marine and has two daughters. Originally from Northern Virginia, she has lived in North Carolina, Hawaii, and now Tennessee thanks to the Corps. She has contributed pieces to several online publications, and was a featured blogger on Military OneSource. She writes at and contributes to ManyKindRegards.com, and is an active member of the FRG. She also likes to bake (and eat), read, sew and could spend hours on Pinterest. She's shocked and feels like a liar every time she tells someone that she loves to run. It barely counts as a blog, but samcanwrite.wordpress.com is a real site, where she occasionally remembers to post things.