My Sea Days
by Jennifer Kraft Sischo
When I think about the Navy and what I miss the most…the first thing that always comes to mind is Sea and Anchor! I loved it…actually, to say I loved it is an understatement…It was the best thing I’d ever experienced in my life up until that moment.
I remember the call from the 1MC…”Station the Sea and Anchor Detail,” and the excitement of getting underway. Not everybody was running to their stations out of the same sheer happiness that I felt, but I was…I loved going to sea.
I didn’t always like every aspect of the ship. In fact, there were many things I didn’t like about it…time away from loved ones was the hardest. Leaving my family behind in Detroit was difficult, but leaving my new husband in Norfolk was even harder. And, then, people who gave me a hard time (we were in close quarters), having to fit in with a younger crowd, mostly guys, even having to live up to something I wasn’t sure I was capable of…being a tough Sailor. My own faults were hard to deal with too…being called out and made to realize that, no matter how hard I tried, I could do better…even an overachiever wasn’t going to impress around this crowd. My division, they were outstanding Sailors…they had all been there and done that. I had a lot to learn and a lot to earn in their eyes.
But when the call to sea was made, all of those fears and insecurities were washed away. We were all the same and we were getting underway. I remember the smell of the sea…the sweet salt of the ocean, the breeze, the blue sky melting into the water as far as the eye could see…no land in sight. Whether we were leaving homeport or a foreign country, it was just about the same feeling…a huge deep breath in, a freedom, a return to home…I always felt alive and all at once at home on the ocean.
In fact, I remember my chief coming up to me while we were traveling through the Mediterranean Sea (on our way home from deployment), and he said, “Sischo, why aren’t you hanging out with the rest of the guys?”
I said, “Chief, I want some time to myself.” I told him I knew one day I wouldn’t be on this battle ship (I can’t express how it felt to be standing on a US Navy battleship – an Office Manager from Detroit literally standing there in service for my country…it was surreal at best), and I wanted to take it in, enjoy every moment, every crash of the sea. He smiled the whole time I was speaking…as if he already knew what I was going to say.
I was always on flag detail and I loved raising the flag on the flight deck when we’d pull into port: “Moored. Shift colors”. Color detail was something I enjoyed throughout my Navy career. I loved taking care of our ensign…I loved the walk to the flag staff and the ceremony, and raising our colors high above our heads…like I said, it was such an honor to be there…to stand where so many people had stood before.
The things I will miss the most…I’ll miss forever the sunsets on the water, the waves crashing against our great ship, the dolphins jumping and racing against the hull…darkened ship and the bright stars speckling the black sky…it looked like a million fireflies. I could have died under it.
If there is a word to describe Sea and Anchor, for me it would be “brilliance.” The sweet wisdom of the sea, the stars, and the Sailors I was fortunate enough to serve with were a time in my life I will never forget. I loved being a Sailor.
Jennifer Kraft Sischo is a United States Navy veteran following the tradition of her father and grandfather. Both were both sailors who served in Vietnam and WWII, respectively, and they died when she was very young. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with high honors, at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, where she was published as an undergraduate student. She plans to pursue graduate work in the fall, and to continue her love for writing poetry and creative nonfiction.