Editor’s note: This is an essay from Carol Cornell in recognition of her husband Dennis’ sacrifice and work as a Duke Energy lineman in Florida for National Lineman Appreciation Day, April 18.
Missed birthdays, belated Christmases, and late nights are part of being a lineman’s wife. Every family celebration or vacation comes with a caveat that my husband Dennis may not make it. Linemen know they will miss important family events, yet they feel such a strong sense of commitment to our customers in need.
Because I also work for Duke Energy’s Customer Care Center, managing our schedules can be especially tough during hurricane and storm restoration because my husband and I both need to support our customers.
When our boys were little, we often depended on neighbors and daycare to watch them as we have little family to rely on.
After 32 years of marriage, I am used to the call outs and the weeks away, but Dennis’ 47-day deployment to restore power to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria was a bit tougher. He missed so much in those 47 days!
While he was gone, we had to decide if we would relocate from Florida to Indiana for my job. Normally, we would discuss this as a family, but cell service was sporadic making communication limited and stressful. Dennis and his co-workers were working in tough conditions with 16-hour days, extreme heat, bugs and rough terrain.
I needed to know I had his full support in relocating, so I had to persist. After several “call failed” notifications, we were able to connect briefly, and, of course, he was unwavering in his support.
But more importantly, Dennis missed a milestone in our son’s life. Josh graduated power school – the second of three phases of his United States Navy Nuclear Training. We took pictures and video, but it wasn’t the same without him. As wives, we do our best to put on a happy face and not let our linemen worry about things at home. He has been away many times, so I thought I was numb to the difficulties. This deployment really made me appreciate and miss him even more.
When cell service allowed, he sent me pictures showing the mountainous landscape and thick brush, which made me appreciate our comforts on the mainland.
One of the things that bothered him the most in Puerto Rico was seeing dogs roam the streets looking for food. Most people see our linemen as big, strong men, but they all have a soft side. Many days he saved his lunch for a stray dog and picked up extra packs of tuna to feed them.
He sent me pictures of the dogs, too, as he wanted to bring them all home!
I am so proud of the work our linemen do, but I know it comes with a price that many don’t understand. Our boys, Josh, 23, and Jake, 20, understand it all too well. I think that’s where they get their strong work ethic.
Working so far away from home is tough, and I know how hazardous the job is, but I also take comfort in knowing Duke Energy has a strong safety culture that my sons are taking with them in their new careers.
Being a lineman’s wife brings challenges that other career choices may not, but the reward is more than worth the sacrifice. I am so proud of my lineman, and all those who work so hard to keep the lights on for us.