Editor’s Note:FOCUS is a multimedia series that highlights the diversity and depth of our community through interviews and photographs.
Paradise is not how Jenn Labencki describes her new life in Hawaii. Instead, the 23-year-old newlywed says the past five months have been tough.
Her husband Kevin serves in the Navy. That means months at sea with little or no contact. She can’t call him when he’s away, her emails are screened, and she can’t say anything sad.
Jenn fills her days taking care of their 16-month-old son Harper. Sometimes she works in the occasional get-together with other Navy wives struggling with the time apart from their loved ones.
Jenn moved to Oahu in July from the eastern shore of Maryland. She describes her hometown as having “more cows than people,” and says getting used to Honolulu’s urban lifestyle hasn’t been easy.
It’s not just the island’s notorious traffic. Her first few months were marked by vandalism at her apartment, rude neighbors and a pricey traffic ticket for using her cell phone to find directions while lost.
Despite the challenges, Jenn remains optimistic. She and Kevin are expecting another child in July. He just re-enlisted for another six years, so Jenn is trying to adjust to the lifestyle.
There are more than 38,000 military families in Hawaii. Here’s one of their stories: