Like most 26 year-olds, 2nd class Petty Officer and Electrician’s Mate Nuclear (or EMN2, for short) Ben Forzani probably never thought about how it would be to leave his wife and children, alone at Kitsap Naval Base in Washington state. He served with the US Navy in South Korea, China and the Philippines doing the work our military does while we work, go to the beach, and worry about what to make dinner.
Many of us take the joy of our children and grandchildren for granted, if not in fact, then via Skype or other electronic ways we have today for participating in their lives even from a distance.
Not so for Ben. For the last half-year while he was deployed, he and his wife, Allie, communicated mostly by email and a few times by telephone (when he was briefly on land here and there. But because of the ship’s signal limitations, he had no chance to see his 6 year-old son Jack, or “baby,” Josie -- just 2-- “live” and doing things Dads love to watch their kids do.
For Allie, the long stretches when Ben has been absent since he signed up in 2010 have been “different.” She just becomes used to having him home with her and the kids for dinner, then, suddenly, he’s gone. She and the children bonded “to form a really close unit” which -- as many military families know-- is the survival tool they depend on until the missing parent returns.
Ben’s 6-year commitment to the Navy will end this October. He has only been home for a few days and Josie just wants to stay in his arms. As her Dad says, with joy and pride, Josie, “just hugged me all over, and wouldn’t let me put her down!”
Ben and Allie, who met in college in Sarasota, Florida, will soon leave military life as Ben pursues an eventual Masters’ Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. He says he feels confident he will be able to find employment with the skills he has and, in general, seems optimistic about his family’s future.
As he basks in the sunshine of his children’s delight at having him back, I ask him how he will feel if and when Jack-- or even Josie-- decide one day to serve in the military, or are drafted. Ben say’s he would support those decisions if they make them, but also adds he will tell them exactly what to expect so they don’t sign up “unprepared” for all that service means as he and many recruits have done.
For now, it’s easier to focus on the joyous reunion this one American family is enjoying after the many sacrifices they and families like them make for all of us every day. It’s too easy to forget how much we owe them all—families struggling on the home front and soldiers battling the global hell still raging since 9/11.
So on this year’s anniversary of 9/11-- to Ben and Allie, Jack and Josie, “Thank you all for your service.”