Each of these stories could be a post all their own. Here are the nutshells…
2011: On March 25, 2011, I reported to my first duty station in Tillamook Bay, Oregon, on the Oregon Coast. Little did I know I would meet my future husband that day. In fact, dating was literally the furthest thing from my mind at the time. I was coming off back-to-back-to-back life-changing events, and after just making it through eight weeks of shell-shock and strength-training (*cough* I mean Boot Camp), I was focused on myself and this new adventure. After reporting aboard and checking in with the Watchstander, I turned around only to be face-to-face with Jesse. I remember we stared at each other, for what seemed like an hour, before either of us spoke. In hindsight, that was probably seriously awkward for onlookers, haha. I remember thinking ‘If all the guys here look like this one, wow…’ Finally I said hello, and he told me to follow him, that he would go ahead and show me around. He asked me all kinds of questions about myself, and even asked if I needed help moving my things into my barracks room. I declined, and thanked him. He ‘left,’ but definitely lingered around the barracks the next several hours. Dating someone else from your unit was prohibited, of which I was very aware, just coming out of Basic Training; I wasn’t even remotely thinking about him, even as a friend, at this point. He was at my station. He out-ranked me. All the STOP signs were there. He ended up going on Leave shortly after I got there, and I didn’t seem him for a couple weeks. During those two weeks, I focused, started really learning this whole new world, and achieved my first qualification. When he came back, however, he started showing interest. One day, I was sitting in the Galley playing Words with Friends. He came and sat by me and asked me what I was playing. When I told him, he downloaded it and vowed to beat me at it. Trash talk ensued (I love me some good trash talk), and it was on. We played a LOT of Words with Friends. At this time, I had a Facebook. He also found and added me on Facebook. Since he didn’t have my phone number, he used the Words with Friends chat box to talk to me. The commentary was rare, mostly about how he was going to lose, or asking me if I was settling in okay. After awhile (and by awhile, I mean months), he asked me on a date to breakfast. I said no three times! The fourth time, despite knowing it was against the rules, I agreed to meeting for breakfast, but not as a date. We were good friends for a long time. Finally, one day, he asked to kiss me. I knew I was falling in love with him, so I told him that if he kissed me, he would have to marry me. I remember him smiling from ear-to-ear and saying, ‘Deal.’ We didn’t bring any feelings to work, and just spent our time outside work together doing things like hiking, bonfires, trying new restaurants, etc. We had both been engaged before, and both had them end badly, so we were both on the same page with what we had experienced and what we were looking for in a serious relationship. We spent almost every day together, going on Search-and-Rescue cases on the perilous waters of the Pacific Northwest, or exploring Oregon, and eventually our friendship grew into a love. The more I learned about him, the more I knew I wanted to take care of him the rest of his life.
2012: It was Jesse’s year to transfer to a new station. We spent a lot of time talking about what that was going to look like and how it would affect us. I’ll never forget the phone call when he told me he got his Orders and where they were for. He was headed for a ship home-ported in California that deployed five months at a time. Five months out, two months in (at most). And he was going to be on this ship for the next three years. I remember my heart sinking. I remember crying. And I remember, for the first time in my life, the feeling of being rendered powerless. I had no say in what was going to happen. The inevitable was staring me in the face and my hands were tied behind my back. Jesse had told me he loved me and wanted to marry me. How was this going to work now? How will we see each other? Will we ever get to talk? What the hell was going to happen now? I didn’t realize it then, but it was a total glimpse into my future as a Military Wife. Questioning… Being scared… Dealing with unexpected change… Wondering what now?! The summer came quickly, and before I knew it, I was standing out in the middle of a rocky Oregon road, waving good-bye to a moving truck carrying the Love of my Life away (again, more foreshadowing, haha). I remember suddenly feeling completely and utterly…alone. He was gone. It was like a break-up without the break-up. And it hurt so bad. Thus began three years of a long-distance relationship, and eventually a long-distance marriage. We had planned a rendezvous trip in Orlando so he could meet my entire family, and that was able to happen about a month after he left Oregon. In September, I surprisingly received Orders to transfer, and I was temporarily re-stationed for two months of training in California. During the two months, I received Orders to North Carolina next…the complete opposite coast as my, now, fiancé. Jesse was due back into homeport a week before I left my current station. He asked me over email (our only mode of communication during deployments) if I would marry him when he got back. I said yes. We decided to get married during that same week he got back. I tried so hard to get my orders changed to remain in California after the two months, especially since we would be married at that point, but to no avail. The military said I was going to North Carolina, and that was that. Jesse came home November 11th, and we spent the next three days in a marriage license, wedding ring, suit and dress, officiant, flowers, location, and vows tornado. We were married the night of November 15th. My mother and sister, and Jesse’s brother, were able to attend. It was the best night of my life. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he was sliding my ring onto my finger. It was how every woman dreams of being looked at.
The next day, my training was complete, and two days later, Jesse went on four days of Leave, and we began the trip from California to North Carolina. Everything I was bringing fit in the backseat and trunk of my car, as not only did we both have to fit in the front seat, but I left most of my things in his/OUR apartment back in California. We made the trip across in two days in order to be able to have a day at the final destination together. I remember spending that one day talking a lot about us, and crying, and getting reassured, and crying, and, oh yeah, crying, and before I knew it, I was standing in front of an airport window waving good-bye to a plane carrying the Love of my Life away fro me. Two days later, I reported to my new unit.
2013: Everything was going great in North Carolina. I loved being on the same coast as my family again. I loved my job, and I loved the people I worked with. Jesse was neck-deep in the stresses of a deployment, as well as emotionally carrying the weight of his father back at home fighting cancer. My Command was very generous and understanding to our situation, and approved any and all Leave requests I submitted to fly and be with my husband during the short amounts of time he was in-port. I did so much traveling that I became more used to navigating airports than navigating to the bathroom in the middle of the night. In March, Jesse was out to sea, and I was in the bathroom, taking a pregnancy test. It was positive. It wasn’t how I thought I’d find out I was pregnant: separated from my husband and unable to talk to him. I emailed him a picture of the test. My first appointment went well! They confirmed the pregnancy and did an ultrasound. At my second appointment, I was so excited, even though I was there completely alone, and so full of anticipation. They were going to do another ultrasound and send me home with pictures. Finally, I was called back. The Tech allowed me to have my phone out to video for Jesse. Unfortunately, there was no more heartbeat, and I was sent to talk with a doctor about my options from there. I decided to wait for the full miscarriage to occur, and was due back in one week if it had not happened. I cried on my way out of the office and made all of the pregnant women in the waiting room extremely nervous. In the car, I dialed Jesse out of habit, but of course, couldn’t reach him. A week went by and I never miscarried on my own, so a D&C was scheduled. The idea of this surgery was scary and sad, and I was upset my husband wasn’t able to be there with me. I hit an all-time low after this, and sank into a depression. But God is faithful, and I soon thereafter received orders to transfer to California. A girl of my same rate and paygrade who was stationed where I wanted to go was looking to be stationed where I was, and we were allowed to switch places. Jesse happened to come back in-port when it was time for me to move. We had 4 days again, so we drove back cross-country in 2 days again. He went back out to sea, and I reported to my new unit.
Jesse came back a week before my birthday. He threw me a surprise birthday party at my office, and the next day, he and I went on a late-honeymoon to Kauai. Best. Vacation. Ever. If you want to feel off-the-grid luxuriously, Kauai is amazing. More on that later.
Two weeks after we returned from Hawaii, Jesse was not out to sea, and I was back in the bathroom taking another pregnancy test. It was positive. It wasn’t how I thought I’d feel the next time this happened; I was SO NERVOUS now, after what I’d experienced last time. But the fact that Jesse was home for a few more weeks made it the special time I’d always dreamed of.
2014: He was deployed most of the pregnancy, and came home a couple weeks before Maddelyn was born in May. Her birth was an incredible and powerful experience; I’ll do my best to write about it another time. We had a week of the Newborn Twilight Zone together, and then he had to deploy again. Which means I had to go at our life alone again. My life consisted of a seeerrrious routine, just so that while I was in the boxing ring by myself with Sleep Deprivation, I didn’t get TKO’d. I also know I wouldn’t physically have survived had it not been for the Crock Pot. (Seriously, if I ever meet whoever came up with the whole crock pot thing, I will hug and kiss them.) Jesse was able to be home for Christmas and New Year’s this year, which was a special time for us as a new family who had hardly had any time together.
2015: My contract was up with the Coast Guard in January, and Jesse & I had decided I’d stay at home with Maddelyn. We flew to Florida to visit my family, and planned on staying several weeks. While there, Jesse contacted me and said they’d had an Itinerary change and would now be docking 2 hours north of where Maddelyn & I were for an entire week. My mom helped us rent a car, and we were able to go spend that week with Jesse. That unexpected time together was such a very-needed and most-welcomed gift. Jesse also received Orders to transfer in the summer. Finally! The good-byes were going to be over! *angels singing* When he got home in May, we left only a couple days later for Florida again on a very-previously-planned trip to celebrate Maddelyn’s first birthday with my family and to take her to a Character Breakfast at Disney World. Jesse never had time to unwind and relax from deployment, but he set that aside and focused on making it a great vacation and celebration of our daughter. Two weeks after getting back, we were driving the vehicles and moving truck 8 hours south. Base housing wasn’t available for us yet, so we moved into a house we could find on the Economy. Jesse was no longer in deployment-status, but he was back in duty-stander status, so he ran a schedule similar to a firefighter’s: several days on, 1-2 days off, and that was honestly just as challenging, just in a different way. Instead of me being able to settle into a long-term routine without him, the routine had to change every few days. But having him home trumped it all. A month after reporting to his new duty station, he ranked-up, and a month after that, we found out we were pregnant again. Jesse had Christmas off, and we were able to go to church for Christmas Eve service for the second time EVER. *hallelujiah chorus*
2016: I lost my grandfather to cancer early this year, and it was devastating to not be able to go home; I was very pregnant and couldn’t fly. I was so incredibly grateful Jesse was able to be with me the last time I was able to speak to my Grandpa over the phone. Housing on base opened up for us, and our move-in date was set to April 30th. Drew was due on April 27th. My Mom was set to fly in April 20th. That was the plan. But here’s what really happened: Our move-in date was April 30th. Drew arrived on the 20th, and so did my Mom. She was unrivaled in how much we needed her; through the countless moving boxes, innumerable drops of sweat, early mornings with Maddelyn, cooked meal after cooked meal, cleaning and organizing the new house so we could be with our kids…she never complained or let her smile go. A couple months after Drew was born, Jesse’s schedule then changed to a “day-working” schedule, one similar to a “9 to 5,” and even though he still stands duty periods during the month and gets called in on a moment’s notice, he is now able to be home more than ever before. The schedule-change, plus living closer to his unit, has been a welcome change for our marriage, and for us as a family.
I remember the exact moment I fell in love with my husband. I was sitting on his sofa, in his Oregon Townhouse, looking through a box he had of photos and things from when he was a child. It was then that I looked up at him and I knew. I knew I wanted to punch challenges in the face with this man. I knew I wanted to give him a life he had only been able to dream about. I knew I wanted to make him feel safe. I knew I wanted to love him like he hadn’t been loved before, and I knew I wanted to beat odds with him—forever.
Our journey together so far hasn’t been an easy one, but it’s an eternal one and a covenant. It’s made us stronger around every turn, and I’m nothing but excited to live it together as it continues to unfold.
“Therefore, what God has joined, let no one put asunder.”
… including the Service.