Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Martino
It’s 3 a.m., and the whole house is silent. Mom and dad lay sound asleep until an ear-piercing screech sounds throughout the house. From the outside of the house everything seems calm. Lights pop on and stream through the windows. Inside, 24-year-old Justin Wappler tries his best to quiet his baby, Nora.
“It is extremely rare that a night goes by and I don’t wake up because of Nora,” said Wappler, from Mesa, Arizona.
In the middle of the night, the Wapplers are just like most families in America. However, Wappler is an Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd class in the U.S. Navy, so many nights he is not home at all.
November is Military Family Month, which recognizes the loved ones who support service members.
“The selflessness of our military families tells a story of unfailing duty and devotion,” President Barack Obama said in a 2014 proclamation. “Through long deployments, difficult separations, and moves across the country and overseas, spouses and partners put their careers on hold and children take on extra responsibilities. With grace and resilience, families endure the absence of loved ones and shoulder the burdens of war.”
Being at sea with a child at home can be very stressful. It is essential that the mother and father both play equal part in raising their child, and this balance is hard to achieve when duty calls.
“When Justin is gone it’s a lot harder to raise a child, but it’s worth it every now and then when I see Nora smile back and laugh,” said Christina Wappler, Justin’s wife. “A couple of times I flew back home while Justin was underway to have my parents help take care of Nora. Having helpful parents makes it a lot less stressful in raising our daughter while Justin is gone.”
For many Sailors, leaving their families and homes can be worrying and the changes they come home to after being away can be hard to deal with. Day-to-day life on a ship and the mission at hand often make it hard to keep in touch with loved ones back home.
With the loss of connectivity during underway periods, communication with loved ones back home becomes extremely difficult. Any means of finding a way to contact friends and family becomes a first priority.
Sailors try to email as much as possible and try to use any other means of communication to stay in touch with loved ones at home. With the lack of face time to those back home make it vital that Sailors maintain a current connection with loved ones.
“Leaving my wife and kid is very tough for me but when I get back into port, and I see my child more grown up and more developed, it touches my heart,” said Justin Wappler. “I know then it’s all worth it.”
Coming home after an underway period can be a shock to some Sailors. There may be certain changes that get overlooked and get taken for granted.
“During our first underway in December, it had been the first time I was away from my wife and daughter,” said Wappler. “When we finally came home, Nora didn’t recognize who I was. It was a huge turning point in her life and I missed it. After a couple of days she realized that I was her father and now whenever I come back she instantly smiles and knows that’s her dad is coming back to her.”
Wappler has been in the Navy for three and a half years now and on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) for three years. He came in undesignated and struck Aviation Machinist’s Mate in 2013. He earned his Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist Pin in 2014.
During an all hands call in 2014, Wappler was one of the few Sailors promoted through the Meritorious Advancement Program to petty officer third class. In his division he holds the title Collateral Duty Inspector, Individual Maintenance Ready List, Disperse Technical Publication Library and Calibration Petty Officer. While in homeport he is a member of the Inport Security Force.
His naval success, and the successes of hundreds other parents aboard Stennis, show that it is possible to raise children while serving active duty in the United States military.
“Being in the navy has its struggles, its ups and downs. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with having a child,” said Wappler. “However, I look ahead and the future looks bright.”
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Raising Children in the Navy.pdf