I’m not your typical military spouse. What is typical anyway? Can there be a “typical” military spouse? I believe we are all unique and have our own love stories that take many different paths. When it comes to our love story you’ll find it seems a little unusual. You see, it’s not every day you have someone who gets married, divorced, and then remarries and been a part of the military in one form or another all along.
How is that possible you ask?
Well, life has a way of surprising you when you least expect it! Our love story is not the most predictable one. We’ve had some twists and turns, some good and some not so good. But none-the-less they have shaped me into the person I am today. I want to be as transparent as I can because I think it is important for you to know what I have been through and how I have come to the knowledge I am sharing on this blog. Having said that, I can say this is probably the most difficult post I may be writing. It is never comfortable sharing the mistakes you’ve made in life much less writing them for the whole world to read. However, I think my mistakes can help others when faced with similar situations. One thing I have learned is being a military spouse isn’t always peaches and cream! Make sure you use a southern accent when you read that! Because peaches and cream are oh so good in the south!
My boyfriend had just graduated from the academy and was at a school in San Diego when he invited me to a Dining Out. I didn’t know him prior to that summer, so the first time I remember being swept off my feet was seeing him in his full mess dress uniform. Not growing up around the military, the event was totally new to me. The whole pomp and circumstance, tradition, and the atmosphere was something that appealed to me. We began a two-year long distance relationship where we saw each other once a month when I flew to San Diego. Keep in mind this is back in the day when there was no technology to help keep us closer. Yep, no cell phones. Heck computers took up a whole basement floor, so definitely no laptops! It wasn’t much but phone calls and “snail mail” was all we had. We married the September after I graduated from college. I packed all my things into crates and moved to Hawaii. I know you are probably thinking, what could she complain about? She is going to be living in paradise! While this is true, the island is still a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! I was basically alone – no family or friends close by. As soon as we arrived on the island, he spent a few days showing me around before he left to meet the ship already out on deployment. The tempo of deployments were revving up as it was the beginning of the first Gulf War. He was out to sea for the next two months and this set the stage for how our marriage would be. Needless to say, if I counted up all the days he was home in the three years we were married, we spent maybe a year together. This gave us little time to bond as a couple and honestly, we didn’t put forth the effort to do so. We separated after PCSing stateside.
A few months later I met someone at a country club while being the designated driver for some girlfriends from work. Now mind you, I was not looking for anyone, so when he came up to the table to ask if we wanted to dance, I promptly said no. Later in the evening he came back and asked me directly to dance. I thought okay I’ll dance one dance and then he will leave me alone. Surprisingly, we actually hit it off pretty well. Several songs later we found ourselves still dancing and talking. Since we didn’t exchange phone numbers, he went back to the same club hoping to see me again. Then one of those nights I ran into him again. This time he asked for my number! We spent some time together in the short months before I moved to Monterey, California and he left for a school and went to be stationed in Japan. He called several times from Japan and wanted me to make the move to be with him. However, I was finishing up my master’s degree and just couldn’t. So he decided he was going to get out of the Navy to be with me. That sounds so sweet, and you’re probably saying “awe.” But he talked about how much he loved the Navy and it was all he wanted to do since he was a boy. But I just couldn’t let him give up his dream job. So I told him bluntly that I never wanted to hear from him again. I know, I know that was a cold thing to say and it was, but he wasn’t taking no for an answer. Being a gentleman, he honored my request and I did not hear from him again – until…
From Hooyah to Hooah
I continued my studies and several months later I met a very polite southern gentleman. I was captivated by his personality and good looks – and of course, he was also very handsome in his dress green uniform! He was stationed at Ft. Ord Army Post which was scheduled for shut-down later that year. He was able to extend just long enough for me to finish my master’s degree. We then made the DITY (Do It Yourself) move across the nation to Alabama. I became a military wife again when we married the following year – this time an Army wife. We loved being together as we both were adventurous and traveling was one of our passions. So when PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders arrived, we were excited to be moving to Germany. Living in Germany was wonderful and traveling throughout Europe was a highlight of being stationed there. During our time there we realized that we were ready after several years of being a couple to becoming a family. Therefore, we were thrilled when I became pregnant with our daughter. Our tour was cut short to our dismay because he had been picked up for Officer Candidate School. While he was attending the officer basic course in Aberdeen Proving Grounds our daughter arrived. Unfortunately, shortly afterward he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore. I would call it an early mid-life crisis at thirty as I look back at it now. My heart ached for my daughter as she was losing a father before she really ever knew him.
The Journey Home
I packed up the few things we had in our unaccompanied baggage to send to my parent’s house, packed the car and drove half-way across the country to my hometown. It was by far the longest, most tear-filled trip I have ever driven. Over the next three and a half years, we took turns traveling to each other’s homes. I wanted our daughter to know her father and I was willing to make whatever sacrifices needed for that to happen. I also secretly hoped and prayed that we would be able to work things out and be a family again. Divorce papers came a few months after our seven-year anniversary. This began a new relationship between us and surprisingly we managed to work our way through the hurt to be friends in the long run. Even though I was no longer technically a military spouse, I was still a part of the military through my daughter and having to keep up with Tricare insurance, her ID card, dealing with visitation around deployments. I also began single parenting like so many military wives do often when their spouses deploy. I missed the “military family” support, but I was fortunate enough to have an active duty Air National Guard family who lived across the street which gave me that military connection through their friendship. Her husband went through several deployments and we were able to be there for each other when needed as we solo parented together.
Almost a 20 Year Gap
Facebook had been out for a little while and I finally decided to sign up. I wanted to stay in touch with family members who were not close and former military spouses I kept in contact with. Never did I expect to get a private message from someone I hadn’t heard from in many years, but…
There it was!
A message from a long lost guy who I had known in California. Yep, the one I hit it off with dancing. He remembered my maiden name and found me on a Facebook search. He would later tell me he wrote the message, deleted it, wrote it again, deleted it several more times before finally saying what the heck and sent it scared! After all, I had told him to never contact me again! I replied to the message and we began catching up with what had happened over the years. He was still in the Navy, went on to have a family and would also be divorced. It wasn’t long until the friendship changed to dating again. We spent as much time together as the Navy would allow. Yes, the Navy does have a say because of the nature of his job and where he is stationed. But that was okay because he looked good in the officer uniform I’d never seen him in before, but had encouraged him to pursue years ago. Although I do remember him looking pretty fine in his enlisted dress blues way back when! I don’t know about you, but I get all giddy when I saw him in uniform!
Our Love Story Endures
This time he wasn’t going to let me get away. He planned a romantic trip to San Diego for a weekend getaway…where we had first met. We had a wonderful time going to all the old places we remembered and seeing how much it had changed in nineteen years. One of the last nights we were there he took me to a nice dinner on the bay at Anthony’s during sunset! It was beautiful! We then made our way to Mission Beach where I spent a lot of weekends playing beach volleyball. I love the beach and he loves the sea, so it was a perfect place to end the evening. The cool breeze and the moonlight on the beach were breathtaking. We took a long stroll enjoying the reflection of the moonlight on the waves and walking in the cool sand. There were fire pits along the beach and one had been abandoned, yet still had a roaring fire going. It was a bit chilly so I suggested sitting by the fire for a while. As we sat down the fireworks from Sea World were just beginning. He got on one knee and pulled out a ring to ask me to marry him. Moonlight, fireworks, and sounds of the waves…it was very romantic!
I, of course, said “Yes!”
We married almost a year later the following spring with all our children, family and friends celebrating our love coming full circle. Years had passed between the time we first met and when we finally declared our love in matrimony. Yet we knew that it was meant to be. We both are wiser and know more about how to navigate the ups and downs of military life. So it stands to reason that military life seems easier and to make sure we put time into our marriage and each other. Our faith is also a large part of our marriage which we rely on as we walk together through the hard times and the good times. Sometimes God has plans for us, but the timing is not right or we don’t listen and make other decisions. We are a testimony of a love that never lost its flame no matter how small it may have gotten over the years. Sometimes love doesn’t always come the way you expect it to, so never give up on it. Although life in the military is sometimes difficult, there are ways to make it work when you put forth the effort. The best thing I have found along the way is there are many others who can identify with you and support you in just about any situation you may face. Our love story took several detours and yet we are stronger now than we have ever been. When you are with and love your best friend it makes life a lot more fun. Do you have a story that was unusual when you met your spouse?
Elizebeth is a seasoned military spouse, educator, mentor, and mom to a blended family of four children. She is dedicated to helping fellow spouses create a life they love. Elizebeth is the creator and founder of Home Anchor Following Seas where military spouses will find advice and information to help navigate the crazy military lifestyle.