Left on the Dock: Veteran’s Day links generations in this familycsudhbulletin November 7, 2019 0 COMMENTS
Courtesy of Darling Family
By Jordan Darling
The breeze that came off of the water carried a slight chill, that swept over the small group meandering in the parking lot of the McDonald’s next to the naval pier.
Street lights let off a glow that illuminated the teary faces of the family preparing to say ‘see you later’ one last time before the start of another deployment.
Michael Darling, a compact man with graying hair and black wire bifocals, hugged his son, a tall muscular young man at 6 feet 2 inches clad in the cami’s that marked him as a United States Marine.
Darling’s Adams apple bobbed as he choked back tears and gave his son a forced smile. His oldest child was ready to leave on his first deployment and march into awar zone.
Cpl. Joseph Darling straightened up and gave his dad a weak smile then hugged his mom and sisters and took his wife’s hand and walked to the gate leading to the U.S.S. Anchorage for a private goodbye– the ship carried the same name as the aircraft carrier that his father boarded 30 years to the day on his first deployment at the age of 19.
Collectively this was the 12th deployment experienced by the Darling family in the past 30 years–the first that I have personally experienced, being Cpl. Darling’s younger sister. In a family that is born and bred military, the words “Duty First” are as common as “I love you..”
Darling remembered standing on the deck choking back his own tears as he smiled at his family standing down on the pier waving their goodbyes.
“Darling it is okay to cry, we all do,” Chief Solomuli, his commanding officer said in a thick accent.
Darling joined the United States Navy in 1989 and followed through with a 20-year career before leaving the military in 2007 shortly before the birth of his youngest child.
Darling’s son decided to join the military at the age of 5. The family thought it sweet that he wanted to be like his dad. But it wasn’t until he saw the recruiter for the first time at 16 that his parents knew it was a concrete decision.
“There are no other words to describe it other than proud. There is a lot of pride there,” Darling said.
At 22 the younger Darling left to join up with the United States Marines emulating a pull to duty that stretched generations on both sides of his family.
On the maternal side of the family, military service can be traced back to the War of 1812 and on the paternal side, it can be traced back to WW2.
“I would have rather been on the boat than Joey, there is a different feeling scared for your kid but another proud dad moment.” said Darling.
In 1996, Michael Darling and his wife, Kristen, told their two small children that if they looked up at the moon daddy would be looking at the same moon and be thinking of them no matter where he was in the world. At eighteen-months-old and eight-months-old it would be the first time that Joey and I would experience a deployment. Two decades later Michael Darling whispered the same thing to his eight-month-old granddaughter as her daddy walked away to the boat.