“Reveille! Reveille! Reveille! All hands heave out and trice up.* Reveille!”
How do you like my alarm clock on board the aircraft carrier, USS Blanchard? My dog tags will tell you I’m McCabe, Hallie L. 023-71-7048/USN/B-NEG/PROT. I’m a Petty Officer Second-Class in the United States Navy, and hopefully will never need a blood transfusion or the services of the Protestant chaplain—unless there’s a wedding to perform.
You want to hear about a day in my life? Well, batten down the hatches, folks, because it’s not the norm for most twenty-four year old American women. When Reveille is called throughout the ship at 0600, I scramble down from my three-tiered rack, careful not to step on the hands of my best friend, Gina Marini who sleeps below me, or get crushed by Crazy Trixie who sleeps above. We vie for the head—that’s the bathroom, for you land lubbers—along with the other thirty-three females in our berthing space. (Some of the males on the lower end of the food chain share sleeping quarters with one-hundred-forty-nine roommates. Can you imagine the smell?)
After I take my two-minute Navy shower—fresh water is precious on board ship, so you turn it off while soaping up, shampooing, or shaving your legs, then turn it back on to rinse—I dress and tidy up my space in berthing. Today I’m wearing a navy blue and gray camouflage shirt and pants outfit that blouses nicely into my steel-toed combat boots. Wait. I wear this outfit every day. My sleeping space is six feet long, two feet wide, and twenty-two inches high. Adding the drawer underneath and a locker nearby, I have approximately fifty cubic feet of personal space for the next six months. Life on board a deployed Navy ship has been equated to being in prison, but with a chance of drowning. But even prisons don’t have jets being launched and recovered on the roof at all hours of the day and night, making life aboard a carrier like living under the runway of a major airport.
After morning chow on the aft mess deck, I report for duty in the Public Affairs Office. I’m a Mass Communications Specialist, which is a fancy name for a journalist. Normally I write copy for the ship’s newsletter, update the ship’s Facebook page, and serve as a liaison with civilians when we’re in port. But ever since I fell in love with an Engineering Officer from the Blanchard a month ago, I pretty much hide out on board ship, skulking through the gray passageways between work, chow, and berthing.
I met Philip Johnston at a picnic on shore before we deployed. Having dated my share of jerks in the past, I was drawn to his integrity. He was a gentleman—and an officer. And, as it turned out, stationed aboard my ship. Since fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel is forbidden in the military, I rationalized the rules until I could find a way for us to sail off into the sunset together. When I discovered that a commissioned officer could only be accused of fraternization if he knew the other party to be enlisted, I didn’t tell him I was in the Navy. I said I was a television broadcast student at the local college, which was true. I never lied to him—except by omission.
I snuck back and forth to the ship for a month prior to deploying and still didn’t figure out how to tell him the truth. You see, if he knew, he would walk away in a heartbeat, because he is a man of honor, which is one of the reasons I love him. Once the ship got underway, I knew I could no longer keep up the farce. So I’ve written him a long letter explaining everything and I pray he’ll forgive me. I sure hope he reads that letter today because the Public Affairs Officer just offered me my dream job, which is to anchor Blanchard News Tonight on the ship’s TV network. I will be broadcasting live this evening, sharing news with the entire crew, including Lieutenant Johnston.
I joined the Navy in order to do my part in the war on terror. I gave up a cushy job in Washington so I could go to sea where the real Navy stories occur. This will become more and more apparent when the ship transits the Straits of Hormuz and enters the Persian Gulf. I may not be at the tip of the spear—I mean, it’s not like I’m going to engage al-Qaeda all by myself or anything—but if I can strengthen and support those who are at the tip of the spear, then I am doing my job well.
After all, the pen is more powerful than the sword, right?
Oops, gotta run. It’s time to change into my dress blues and get ready to go on the air. Wish me luck—that the show goes well and that Lieutenant Johnston reads that letter before the news tonight. And please keep your fingers crossed that he can forgive me for deceiving him. I only did it so we could be together because I loved him so much. I still do. And I always will.
Heather is giving away one (1) copy of FORGIVE & FORGET. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. Contest ends July 27 and US entries only.
As a bonus, when the winner is announced, Heather will send another copy of the book to any service member designated by the winner.
You can read more about Hallie in Forgive & Forget, the first book in the “Love in the Fleet” military romance series.
Meet the author
Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for their Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romantic suspense novels, donating half her royalties to support wounded warriors and their families. The recipient for Forgive & Forget will be Fisher House Foundation – Helping Military Families. (fisherhouse.org.) Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her retired Naval Engineer husband.
*To learn the meaning of “heave out and trice up” and other Navy terms, sign up for Heather Ashby’s newsletter, The Scuttlebutt, at heatherashby.com.
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