Unlike so many military couples, my husband Joseph and I were married prior to him enlisting. In November 2009, almost 6 months after our wedding, with the recession and the inability to find steady full-time jobs, Joseph made the decision to speak to a recruiter about joining the Army. After three weeks of meetings, the ASVABS and MEPS he took his oath and enlisted on December 19. He shipped to basic a month later.
With my husband gone, I quite seriously read a paranormal romance book a day, and spent a lot of time at the gym losing 30 pounds during his 14 weeks at Basic and AIT (Advanced Individual Training).
At the beginning of May I flew to Missouri for his graduation from Fort Leonard Wood. He enjoyed two weeks of leave at home in Vermont with me, and then he was sent to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii where he would be stationed. I had to wait for him to finish his in-processing in order to join him. It took longer than I would have hoped and on June 13th, 2010, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary via Skype. The very next day, my heart shattered into pieces when Joseph called to tell me that he had received orders for Deployment to Iraq for a year. He would be leaving at the end of June.
Needless to say, the processing required to get me shipped out to Hawaii was put on rush, and I was flown out on June 24th where I spent 6 days with Joe before I tearfully said goodbye and watched him get on a bus headed for the Air Force Base. I knew no one, I missed my husband and my family, I was living in a hotel until housing on base became available to me, and had no idea where anything was on Oahu, or even how to navigate the Army base. I was scared and very lonely. Again, I turned to reading and gym time.
Eventually, I made a few friends and busied myself discovering the beautiful beaches and unique culture of Hawaii. Before I knew it, Joseph was coming home for R&R in December of 2010. We spent two weeks together on the beach, at restaurants, and doing Christmas shopping for family and friends. We had also made the decision to try to conceive.
After 16 days home, my husband had to return to Iraq. About two hours before we headed to the airport I took a pregnancy test, not really believing that it would be positive. But, not even two minutes after I took that test the word “Pregnant” showed up in beautiful clear digital letters. So, instead of more tears of goodbye as I sent my husband back to a war zone, I gave him a lingering kiss and hug and told him to get on that plane, finish his mission, and get home to me to help prepare for our new little one.
When I was 29 weeks pregnant with our little boy, Joseph returned home from Iraq in an incredible Welcome Home Ceremony. A celebration a person can only grasp the emotions of if they’ve witnessed it. As my soldier marched in and I knew he was safe, I cried more than I ever have in my life, and I thought I would burst with pride.
Joe was home to share with me most of my last trimester. On September 4th my labor was induced and Hunter Gabriel was born by emergency c-section on September 5th 2011, coincidentally Labor Day.
It’s hard to believe that Hunter will be a year old in a little over two weeks. It really does go by too fast. There have been many changes and challenges this year, and the biggest change has been that this past May I took the Oath of Enlistment myself and will be shipping to Basic Training in October. I made the decision to join so that I may be able to provide the best life I can for my little boy. Joe and I have always believed that marriage is a partnership and both people should contribute what they can to make for a happy life, and that’s exactly what I will be doing. I know that this means more separation from my husband and now my child while I train for six months to become a Health Care Specialist for the Army. However, I know without a doubt that this is the best thing for my family, and I will remember that when training gets tough and I feel like I want to go home. Soldiers aren’t the only ones who are Army Strong. Families are.
Thank you so much for your consideration, and it was a pleasure to tell my story. I think that this contest is wonderful, and the recognition of the military is immensely appreciated. Take care.