A Military Daughter & Spouse: Des'ola Mecozzi
When I was a college student, I had a memorable guest speaker who stated, “You don’t have to kiss ass. Just kick it.” This very guest speaker would later become the photographer I interned for, work with, and ultimately call my dear friend. Within the same year of meeting this guest speaker I also met the man that would become my husband. I told myself, as a Vietnam Veteran’s daughter, I would not marry someone who was in the military. I was rapidly exposed to the world of the United States Navy Submarine Force as my spouse and I created a life together after he received orders to Groton, Connecticut.
Our story begins almost like a storybook, and through photographs it seems that way now. For all true military spouses and significant others through the centuries, there’s a prideful heartache you wear while you live through the moments they’re deployed. Any day of the year can feel like a holiday when they come home from a successful mission. In the times they are out doing what they signed their name for and serving their country, you try to dive into what can detour your mind. My time as a military spouse put myself and our family through challenges that civilians can’t comprehend. It is not just the sleeping apart for 300 days out of a year. Challenges of the submarine life include months of communication blackout (submarines don’t get email or phone service it turns out), my spouse finding out on a Wednesday they go to sea on a Friday for an unknown time, having to learn how to assist in finances and be self sufficient away from my family, and even postponing starting our family due to the nature of submarine fast attack life. While I understand many military families have children, my husband wanted to be present for everything involved and that led to us delaying having children for a decade. While I know my husband had a harsher reality to face under the sea, spouses having a different set of challenges does not make them any less important (as any successful military family will confirm).
When we left the military life together, after 11 years in it, both of us were a bit directionless in where we wanted to live and the life we wanted to create. It took 6 months for us to realize we even had a new reality and another two years to have our first child. Transitioning from the military is hard on both members because we left behind the structure and friendships that had made our day-to-day life function. Luckily, we maintain many of those friendships in any capacity possible.
The truth is, it feels difficult to find true friends outside of the military. Kevin and two of his friends are endearingly called “The Three Amigos”, and we are close enough to have attended each others’ weddings. The few times we have been able to all get together have been like no time has passed in between. A silver lining from this is that I have gained insight how veterans, no matter what branch, act like family even if they have just met. They feel a connection that is forged through mutual understanding.
Speaking of family, the guest speaker who was in my college class over a decade ago is someone viewers will get to know. She’s the host of After Action. Stacy Pearsall has continued my education past my degree and throughout life. I have been able to hear stories, from the unbelievable to the raw and heart wrenching, of veterans’ while assisting and photographing behind the scenes for the Veterans Portrait Project. There was a time this was a part of my therapy as well since I traveled with her across the country while my husband was deployed. Not only did the project help me cope with the military life I was now part of, listening to thousands of veterans’ experiences helped me to understand my father better as well. Due to him being a Vietnam Veteran, many of his tendencies and interactions were a bit unrelatable to me until I gained the experiences of working with veterans through Stacy.
This brings a good reason why I believe After Action is incredibly beneficial to Americans regardless of military connection. After Action shares truths many of us have not contemplated. Despite my previous experiences, I struggled to maintain my composure while on set due to the nature of discussions that were conducted. While we walk around generally taking for granted our freedoms, there are veterans from past, present, future who have served and sacrificed for us to have and maintain these freedoms. We are all guilty of this complacency and sometimes we need to have a dose of reality. After Action is that dose of reality with a great side effect of education. Viewers will be able to find more meaning behind saying “Thank you for your service” and feel more connected to their local veterans.