All About Trey

Life, Travel, Adventure

The Longest Night

It was the late summer of 1999. I’ve forgotten the exact day. Sort of like how your memory dulls or fades certain painful memories. I could probably go back and figure it out, but I don’t want to.

It was another Saturday night in Naples and I had settled into my usual routine. A quick (and early) dinner at the La Betolla down the hill, and then a couple of movies. My social life in Naples was pretty non-existent. I had picked up “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Matchmaker” for the evening. I knew Saving Private Ryan was going to be tough to get through, so I wanted a light fluffy romantic comedy to go with it and I love Janeane Garofolo.

Saving Private Ryan was good, and tough. And I was about 2/3 of the way through the movie when my phone rang. It was the RM1 who was in charge of the watch at the communication station I worked for. “LT R” He said tentatively. “Yes”, I responded. “I’ve got the results of the 0-4 (LCDR) selection board and I was told to call the Captain when they came in, but I can’t get a hold of him. Are you acting XO?” My XO was on a diving trip in Egypt and as the next senior officer at the command, I was acting XO for the weekend. “Yes” I replied again.

“Who’s on the list?” I asked. There were three of us up for promotion from my command.

“LT J is on the list.”

“That’s all?” I asked.

“Yes sir” he replied.

“I said, okay what section are you looking at? LT J is an LDO. LT A and myself are Fleet Support Officers, there’s a different section for us. Can you find the section that’s titled 1700-Fleet Support Officer.” There was a moment of silence.

“Oh, LT A is on the list.” He said.

“Okay, look farther down the list, it’s alphabetical, do you see my name?”

“No, sir. I’m sorry sir.”

“Well RM1 X, I’m probably going to hate you for a very long time, but please don’t take it personally.” I tried to joke.

After I put the phone down, I turned back to the movie. I didn’t want to think about what this meant. It was too much to think about. I was probably in a bit of shock, or denial, or whatever you want to call it. So I turned back to the movie. Big mistake.

As the movie progressed, I started to cry. In jags. Between the movie and the realization that my Naval career was over, I pretty much lost it. My emotions were all over the place and I cried.

It’s hard to describe the impact, or the feeling, or the thoughts going through my head. I was watching a very patriotic and inspiring movie that really spoke to the feelings, desires, hopes, and dreams of those who serve in the military. It spoke of a certain comradiery and fellowship that exists in the military. The feeling that you’re a small but important part of team trying to achieve something good, something better than yourself, something important, something for your country. And I realized that anything sort of resembling that was no longer going to be a part of my life. I had spent almost 15 years of my life in the Navy (if you include the Naval Academy) and now I was essentially getting kicked out. I had devoted my entire adult life in the Navy. And now I was being told that I wasn’t good enough. And it hurt. Looking back now I can realize that I had made my professional life, my whole life. So while this was just a repudiation of my professional life, it really felt like a judgement against me as a person.

The movie ended and I stopped crying after awhile. It was late, but I couldn’t sleep. My mind, and my emotions, were on hyper drive. But I didn’t want to think about it any more, about what it meant, about what I needed to do next, and on and on and on. I needed something to take my mind off everything. So I popped in the second movie.

It was cute and funny and I sort of paid attention to it. It became background music or noise or whatever to all of the conversations in my head. I couldn’t really block them out completely so I would dive in and climb out of the various thoughts in my head while I watched the movie. Late in the film, there’s a scene where the guy opposite Janeane is trying to explain why he did something, and he said, “Sometimes the easy way out is the right way out. Sometimes the easy way out is the right way out.”

The phrase rang though my head. I could fight to stay in. I could see if I got selected on my second look, or I could take this opportunity to get out. I liked the Navy. I got to do a lot of great stuff and meet some great people. But I had also come to distrust the system a bit. I was tired of type A abusive leaders who thought you could win an argument by yelling the loudest. And I was also tired of not having a life. Between the time on the ship, my first shore tour where I got my MA as well as did the Navy War College, I had poured all of my energy, all of my focus, all of me into being the picture perfect Naval Officer. And I was not picture perfect, or even close.

Sometimes the easy way out is the right way out.

I knew I was gay by this time. I was on the tail end of the denial process, but it was coming to an abrupt end soon. I had put any social life, any sex life, on hold to pursue my career. And now that career was over. I knew that if I didn’t figure out a way to balance a professional life with a real personal life, that I was going to be missing something important, something crucial, in my life.

So I made the decision to not fight it, to get out of the Navy, to figure out who I was supposed to be. Or atleast start down that path a bit more honestly, and openly.

Sometimes the easy way out is the right way out.