~~When Bryce and I first started dating, he told me that he wanted to become a Frogman (another name for a Navy Seal) for as long as he could remember. His granddad and his dad had been Navy Seals in their time. At first, he didn’t want to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He wanted to become a professional baseball player. So, on an athletic scholarship to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, he went to school and played baseball for two years. Halfway through college, he realized that he didn’t want to pitch ball all his life. So, he went to a Navy recruiter and gotten everything ready for his enlistment. Then he met me four months before he was shipped off to boot camp. When he told me of his plans of becoming a Frogman, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at the time. I didn’t have any family or ever dated a guy in the military. I wasn’t familiar with the ways of how the military operated, especially with Navy Seals. So as time wore on, I started learning about Bryce’s chosen occupation.
He went to Great Lakes, Illinois for boot camp which lasted for eight weeks. He wasn’t allowed to use a cellphone, so we wrote constantly. I still have the stack of letters he wrote me. Then he went straight to Coronado, California to start on his Indoctrination, which is a five-week course that prepares students for BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/-Seal). BUD/S is a six-month course that involves rigorous training. The course is split into three phases. The first phase is eight weeks of Basic Conditioning, testing the students’ abilities past their limits. The second phase is also eight weeks of diving, and the third phase is nine weeks of land warfare. The training is meant to separate those who really want to become Navy Seals and those who do not. It’s meant to challenge the students and see if they have the ability to execute commands while working as a team. Teamwork: Something Bryce told me that was drilled into him throughout his entire career in the Navy.
Throughout the course of Bryce’s BUD/S training, he was trained thoroughly. He was taught that there was no “I” in teamwork. Everything he did, he did with his swim buddy or with the entire team. The first phase he said everyone was always wet and sandy, shivering from the cold of training in the water, and dog-tired from physical training every day. When he passed that, he moved onto the diving phase, where they were trained to learn how to “breathe” underwater. They were still wet and cold, hardly ever dry. After that one, he moved on to the land warfare phase, where they did some deep sea diving, underwater demolition, marksmanship, and weapons training. He told me it was quite an experience, and I was surprised at all the things he’s been doing for just six months.
I couldn’t help but feel a little left out sometimes. He was gone the minute he left for boot camp, and the only time I got to see him was on holidays. We had a few arguments about that as well. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t even in a relationship. Bryce would be gone for long periods of times, and I would be left alone. I know it seemed selfish to think that way, but dating a Navy Seal, currently in training or not, wasn’t exactly easy.
I had a very bad day before Bryce was to come home on leave once. I went to my Psychology class, and one smart-ass girl there pissed me off. We were talking about PTSD and how it affected a lot of people. The instructor pointed out that a lot of military troops develop PTSD, and this girl scoffed. She was sitting right behind me, and she had been popping gum for the first half of class.
She then said, “That’s just an excuse for those bastards to get away with killing people.”
I turned around and glared at her. “No one wants to know what you fucking think.” I clenched my jaw and bit out the words through my teeth.
She scoffed again and said, “We wouldn’t be in this war if those baby killers didn’t go into other countries, trying to run everything.” The rest of the class looked at her like she was crazy, but I was the one who was ready to kill. She kept going on and on about her opinion on the military. I just snapped and decked her in the face. I literally jumped out of my seat and swung my fist into her face. I wasn’t going to sit through her rant about the military and not do anything. Bryce was going to get deployed after his training, and I didn’t need some bitch saying this kind of crap. I was then given a warning from the board that something like that should never happen again.
Then I went to work later on that day, feeling really annoyed. I tried my best not to let what happened at school get to me, but then Will, a civilian bastard that always tried to ask me out, came towards the bar and irritated the hell out of me.
He smiled at me and said, “Hey, baby. How are you tonight?”
I rolled my eyes and said, “What do you want, Will?”
“How about you with Sex on the Beach?” He eyed me up and down in an inappropriate way, and I just rolled my eyes again.
“If you’re not gonna order a proper drink, Will, then get out. I told you that I’ve got a boyfriend.” I tried to turn away from him, but he reached out and gripped my wrist tightly.
“He’s not here, is he? Why don’t you and I just hook up?” I tried to snatch my hand away from him, but he only gripped it tighter.
“Let go of my wrist, Will.” I tried once again to snatch my hand away, but he took my fingers and licked the tips. I freed my hand from him, and I slapped him across the face.
“You bitch!” He tried to reach for me again, but a few bar patrons that I knew came to help me, and threatened him to get out. He shoved the guys away and got vocal with everyone.
“What? Do all of you military bastards think that you’re all better than the rest of us?” He looked at me with such a scornful look. “What? I’m not as good as these military assholes? Is that it, bitch? Then where’s your boyfriend? Oh yeah, he’s probably fucking some other girl and leaving you here, stupid and naïve.” I balled up my fist and gritted my teeth. I was beyond my boiling point, and I believe I hurled a shot glass at him. I tried to go after him, but then a few guys held me back, telling me that he wasn’t worth it. So they tossed the asshole outside the bar and warned him never to come back.
I tried not to let what Will said get to me, but it got under my skin anyway. I thought of my relationship with Bryce and went over all the things we’ve been through. I realized that we’ve been separated more times than we’ve been together. That got me thinking if our relationship was worth staying in. Was it really worth it to be in a distance relationship with a guy that was always busy? I knew that my thoughts were selfish and wrong, but I couldn’t help them. So I thought it would be best if Bryce didn’t need that kind of negativity in his life.
When Bryce came home the next day, I was feeling a bit antsy and sad at the same time. I hated feeling that way. It was as if I didn’t appreciate what Bryce did for a living. He always tried to make time for me, and here I was thinking that our relationship was just not worth the time. So when Bryce came to my apartment with a big smile on his face, I admit I was acting aloof. He hugged me tightly and sighed in contentment.
“Oh, how I missed your beautiful face, woman.” He kissed me deeply then, leaving me a little breathless. But when I pushed him back a bit, he frowned and said, “What’s wrong, baby girl?”
“I’ve had a really bad day yesterday, and it got me thinking. Is our relationship really worth the time? Are we worth it? I mean, you’re always gone, and--” His smile vanished completely, and he cut me off, looking pissed by the minute.
“Are you kidding me? I come home, expecting to be welcomed with open arms, but instead I come face to face with this?” He stormed off into my apartment, tossing his bags carelessly onto the floor. I closed the door and followed him in. He turned to me with an annoyed look. “What’s gotten into you?”
“I know that this sounds extremely selfish, but I can’t help the way I think sometimes. So I thought that you don’t need this in your life. You don’t need me—“
Bryce cut me off again before I could continue. “No, Marley. I don’t wanna hear that crap.” He ran his right hand down his face, trying to calm down. “Why do you think like that?”
“Like what?” I asked him a bit harshly.
“Like that! Like we’re nothing! Why are you being so paranoid?”
“I’m not!” I told him.
“Then why do you bring this up? Are you always going to do this every time you have a bad day?”
“Well, I’m sorry if I’m not stable enough to deal with these kind of situations, okay? Maybe it’s because I’ve never been in a long distance relationship before!”
“We’re not in a long distance relationship, Marley! A long distance relationship is just two people who are trying to prove to the world that they can love each other while in another country, region, or whatever the fuck that counts as miles. What we have” he said, waving his hand between us, indicating me and then him. “We don’t have to prove to anyone what we have. No matter where I am, my love for you is still the same. I don’t need to prove to anyone that I love you, and I sure as hell don’t count my love for you by miles. Why can’t you do the same?”
“I am doing the same! I just don’t know how to deal with this whole separation thing, okay? I’ve been on my own for a while, so excuse me if I’m overreacting!” Bryce sighed heavily, covering his face with his hands for a second. He looked at me, his eyes were filled with hurt. I shook my head and said, “I don’t want what others say get to me, but I can’t help but wonder…” My sentence drifted off when Bryce scoffed and looked down, shaking his head.
“Wonder what? If I’m out there, not giving a damn about you? Who told you that?” He looked madder the more he kept talking.
“Will came by the bar last night and said some things—“
“Will? That asshole? He knows nothing about a real relationship because he doesn’t love anyone but himself. You’re gonna let what he said get to you?” Bryce scoffed, shaking his head even more.
“I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t want to let what he said get under my skin. I just thought that you would be better off without someone who has issues.”
“Everyone’s got issues, Marley!” He raised his voice a bit, which kind of startled me. He pinched the bridge of his nose, silent for a moment. He then looked back up at me. “So, what are you saying? Are you giving up on me?” he asked, throwing his arms out.
“Answer me, Marley! Are you just gonna throw our relationship away, just like that?”
“I-I…I don’t know,” I told him, my voice breaking. He sighed and looked away. I looked down, and we stayed quiet for a minute. He then came towards me and lifted my chin. We stared into each other’s eyes for a bit, searching for answers? Courage? I didn’t know.
He sighed and said, “Do you love me, Marley?”
“Yes, I do,” I told him without a moment’s hesitation.
“Then, why are you questioning us? Love is more than spending time with each other, Marley. Love is learning how to be strong for each other, especially if we’re always separated.” He lifted my chin higher and looked me in the eye. “Love is learning to be patient. Yes, I’m always gone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of you every day. The distance hadn’t changed my love for you, Marley. I promise you that.” He said those words so softly and sweetly, it melted my heart. I felt ashamed that I even thought that our relationship wasn’t worth fighting for.
“God, I so don’t deserve you,” I told him, tears spilling onto my cheeks. He embraced me tightly and kissed my forehead. “I’m sorry, Bryce. I don’t know what’s gotten into me.”
He sighed and said, “Don’t apologize, Marley. It’s not your fault. I was being too harsh, and I shouldn’t have raised my voice. I’m sorry.” He leaned back and wiped my tears away. He smiled and said, “Now, do you want to start this meeting over again?” I jumped into his arms and kissed him silly.
He chuckled as I said, “I love you, Bryce.”
Ever since then, I tried not to let those kind of thoughts get to me. I always tried to stay strong for Bryce. He needed me, especially since he was training hard and getting deployed soon. So I spent my time just loving Bryce and supporting him.
Bryce was always trying his best. He didn’t have one quitting bone in his body. That no-quit attitude took him all the way to the end, him in his dress white uniform, getting ready to graduate with his class. He earned that Seal Trident through blood and sweat, no tears whatsoever. I was beyond proud of him. He had accomplished something big in his life. The smile on his face was priceless, and that made me happy. But nothing prepared me for when Bryce came to me, getting ready for deployment. I wasn’t a totally complete mess or anything. I just woke up with a big chuck of myself missing every day. I knew he would be deployed eventually. I just didn’t think I would feel so sad when he did. That was the hard part of all this.