Many years ago, one of my contemporaries countered a burst of my surface warfare professional bravado by saying "the surface navy eats its young." He went on to describe the surface navy as a professional and personal environment that he perceived to be "anesthetic to life."
As my career progressed I had many opportunities to reflect on that haunting commentary. It leaped from my memory whenever I saw a ship's captain respond to the pressures of command by tearing up a junior officer. It surfaced at the end of long deployments as my personal life was put to the test. It reemerged whenever I heard that a ship's high operational tempo had destroyed another marriage.
By the end of my career, convinced that my friend was probably right, I rationalized that the apparent disproportionate professional and personal demands-and the extraordinary level of stress-associated with the surface warfare officer career path were the inevitable nature of the beast. Taking pride in having met that challenge, I retired to the relatively tame existence of a government contractor and, with daily doses of "family," the wounds of a 23-year surface Navy career healed quickly.