Hearts in the Military
Relationships can be hard. Communication, compromising, etc. are factors that go into each and every relationship.
Imagine your significant other lives long distance away. That makes having a relationship harder. Take it one step further. Imagine they live a long distance away … in a war zone. It makes you wonder how civilian and military relationships work.
It’s not easy, but there is an upside.
Kristin and Dave
Kristin Jones’ boyfriend, Dave, was in the Army from 2004-2007 and they are still together today. They have been dating for 13 years, after working together at a Philadelphia country club during their high school years. They started dating before Dave, 30, joined the military but were so young that the decision wasn’t made together.
“Basic [training] was very hard for both of us because there was no communication besides letters. I think there were times where both of us wanted to give up because we went from seeing each other every day to being separated for 14 weeks,” Jones said. “It was, however, very exciting to be reunited after such a long time apart.”
While in active duty, Dave was stationed in Kansas and did one tour in Iraq. Jones thought one of the hardest aspects of dating a member of the military was the deployment and not being able to share her days with him.
“The military and your duty come first and at the time I was very young and couldn’t grasp that,” Jones, now 29, explained. “Sometimes I would initiate fights that were unnecessary.”
Not hearing from Dave and the thought of his safety sometimes got to her.
“Every day was nerve-wracking. Every phone call I received made me nervous to hear bad news,” Jones said. “We emailed more than any other form of communication and then I usually got a phone call a week. But sometimes it stretched to two weeks.”
Two of the things Jones loved about dating someone in the military was traveling and meeting people.
“We got to do a lot of traveling and we met some really great people along the way, some of whom are still very close friends. I did maintain contact with some of his buddies’ girlfriends/wives, which was helpful [while Dave was deployed],” she said.
Jones’ key advice to others who are dating members of the military: patience and understanding. “Your significant other is already under a lot of stress. Do what you can to be supportive on the home front, but be sure to communicate your feelings.”
Josh and Kelly
Ask newlyweds Josh and Kelly and they’ll say that Josh’s decision to join the Air Force was one of the best decisions for their relationship.
They met in high school and had been dating for eight and a half years before getting married five months ago. “We discussed it a few times before he joined. I didn't agree at first because I didn't think we'd make it through, but I knew he needed to do what was best for him,” Kelly, 26, said.
The pair ultimately decided to get engaged before Josh, 24, left for basic training.
“We were engaged while he went to basic training. It had a positive effect on our relationship because I missed him, which made me realize he definitely was the one for me and how much I really wanted him in my life, and that he was definitely worth the wait,” Kelly said.
Josh agreed. “Being away from each other for two months made it a lot stronger. It made me realize how much I wanted her to be a part of my life.”
Since Josh is on active duty, the couple had to move to another state.
“Moving to another state was frightening. I didn't know what I was getting myself into or know how things would be. The difficult part was moving away from family and friends and literally not having anyone but my spouse,” Kelly said. “I have adjusted to the change and I'm happy we moved.”
Both Josh and Kelly are aware of the possibility of war, but believe their relationship will stand strong.
“If I have to go, well, duty calls,” Josh said. “I'd be sad to be away from her knowing there’s a chance of me not coming home. But I think our relationship would grow even stronger.”
“If Josh had to go to war I'd be devastated! But I know it comes with the job,” Kelly added. “I think it would have a positive effect on our relationship because we know what it's like to be apart from each other and I know my feelings for him and our relationship would only get stronger.”
Their key advice to others who are dating members of the military: Trust and patience. “Stay strong and never give up on your significant other. Also, communicate and stay positive,” Kelly added.
Leah and Jonathan
Leah Miller, 22, met her fiancé Jonathan, 24, two years ago when she travelled with a friend who was visiting her military boyfriend.
Since she met Jonathan on a military base, the military has been a part of their relationship from the very beginning. He has since prolonged his service and Miller couldn’t be prouder of him.
Within the two years they’ve been together, Jonathan was deployed for nine months. But that didn’t stop the Pennsylvania couple from being there for each other.
“People told me before he left that I would have fun sending him care packages and letters, and I would roll my eyes because the only thing I could think of was ‘I won’t see the love of my life for nine months, how could any aspect of that be fun?’ But it was,” Miller said.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she added, “it’s not like I skipped around the house for nine months enthused about the deployment, but I found consolation in sending him the things that I know he missed and would enjoy and being there for him even with the time difference. He knew he could contact me at any time and that I would answer.”
“You can’t help but worry and that was the most difficult part for me,” Miller said. “I was finishing my degree while he was deployed, volunteering, and working a part-time job and I think the long days of being busy definitely helped it go by faster. But there was still always time for worrying. I was more worried about him and his feelings than my own.”
If Jonathan were to get deployed again, Miller doesn’t think it will affect their relationship.
“I imagine I would feel similar to the way I did the first time. I was anxious about him leaving, but also felt that the sooner he left, the sooner it would all be over. I have no doubts about going through another deployment in our relationship and neither does he. It doesn’t put a strain on our relationship and I know we would pick up where we left off when he got back.”
Miller’s advice to others who are dating members of the military: “If you’re able to realize that the military is a part of who he/she is, then it’s also a reason why you love them. The distance will make the right relationship stronger, not weaken it.
“There will be some hard times and there will be great times,” she said, “just like there are in every relationship.”
Yesenia and Edil
Yesenia, 30, and Edil, 27, have known each other for 12 years, and have been married for seven. The couple plan to renew their vows when Edil returns from deployment.
Although they were not in a relationship when Edil first joined the military, that decision caused their friendship to blossom into more.
“We were very close family friends, but the feelings were already there. When he discussed with me his desire to join the military, it did not take me by surprise. His huge heart, his love of service and natural ability to take charge, was what drew me to him the most. I knew it was something he desired to do and although I knew it would probably mean I would end up losing him, I backed his decision to join,” Yesenia said. “Once he left to basic training, we actually realized how much we really meant to each other, and midway through his training he asked me to be his girlfriend in a letter.”
Yesenia said that being an army wife is nerve racking and thrilling and compares it to breaking a piñata at a birthday party.
“It’s like all of the feelings you get when you were a little kid on your birthday, standing right in front of the piñata, blindfolded. In the background, you hear the people cheering you on and guiding you. Your nervous because you can’t see, a little worried because you don’t want to look like an idiot when you miss the first hit, but yet excited to get the hit that cracks open the piñata and reveals all the different variety and possibility of candies you are going to be able to have,” Yesenia explained.
Shortly after they were married, Edil was deployed.
“We had just gotten married in November and one month later he was gone. Not really the fairytale honeymoon life after the wedding,” Yesenia said.
The support she received from their families, the army, friends, and church made it easier to handle. “Days were doable but the nights were the cruelest,” she said. “After the day wound down and all the daily rush was gone, the only thing left to do at nights was to think, and the feeling of the unknown is definitely not enjoyable.”
Regardless of the struggle, Yesenia believes his military service has strengthened their relationship.
“Our experiences as couple throughout both tours has been nothing short of a blessing for our relationship. They have both brought us closer together than we could have imagined. Even in his absence, he has strived to be the husband that is present in everything in my life. He has worked hard to make sure that I know I am safe even when he is not around, and in my most difficult moments.”
Yesenia’s advice to to others who are dating members of the military: “Support them, learn to listen and be honest.”
“Take advantage of the time that you share together,” she said. “Live every moment with them like if it were your last.”