Getting to know my Airman: An amazing man, strong in his faith, loyal and humble while serving our great country, and the love of my life. He’s a USAF Airman and loves his job. He has been active duty for 6 years and has done two deployments. He is looking forward to his next deployment and the adventures it will bring.
Getting to know me: I recently graduated from college, spent a year working to save in order to pay for professional school, and just enrolled for a Fall 2019 start in my professional field of choice. I am so excited that I was accepted into a medical school near the AFB he is stationed at!
Getting to know all about us: We met during his leave to our home state. We reconnected the first night he was home – we grew up on the same block, played soccer together when we were in little league. We dated for the past two years, always long distance, during my last year of college and a year of working in the real world. Today, we are now very happily engaged! It would seem our lives are coming together as perfectly as they can. We’re planning our wedding in our home state for the July 2019, after a 9 month engagement.
Everything seems perfect, doesn’t it?
Except for me, there is one thing that just doesn’t feel right… One gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that makes me cringe slightly at the beginning of some conversations about the upcoming wedding.
This gnawing feeling is that I am losing myself so that my fiancé, the man I love most in this world, the man I want to be 110% happy, the man that I know for certain I always want to stand beside, the man I want to be the father of my children, the man that I want to grow old with (I could keep going on honestly), can continue to chase his personal dreams and career goals.
You see, before I met my now fiancé, I began the process of ROTC. However, about four months before I started my freshman fall semester, I received notice that I had a full-ride scholarship, including room and board, textbooks, 2 hours of paid tutoring per week, and a few other perks. The requirements were simple – maintain my student-athlete position on the soccer team, keep a 3.5 GPA, volunteer for a minimum of 8 hours per academic week, and work in departmental research for a minimum of 4 hours per academic week. Looking at my options, taking the full-ride scholarship made the most sense and gave me an easier path to the more usual college experience while allowing me to gain my education free of charge. When I discussed this choice, the ROTC on campus assured me that I could apply later to the officer training academy.
So that has been my plan since I was 17 years old. I planned to finish college on a full-ride scholarship (check!), I would apply and attend my professional school of choice (check!), and about 3-6 months before graduation from my professional school, I would apply to the Navy officer training academy to join as an active duty member.
Except what I never planned for was to date and fall in love with an Airman. In fact, we spent that first summer leave just hanging out. We got to know each other more and more in normal situations, with plenty of friends and family around. It was 110% platonic. It wasn’t until two days before he left to go back to base that he asked me to go out. A little bit of an airhead when it came to romance, I was 19 and said something like, “Well yeah, we’ll probably all go out tomorrow – it’s your second to last night home.” He looked at me, a little frustrated to have to spell it out, and said, “No – just us, on a real date.” It took a lot for me not to laugh out loud. I took a deep breath and meekly said, “Sure.” I wasn’t sure I had a choice to say anything other than “sure.” I honestly didn’t see it going anywhere in a few hours alone, especially since I was going back to college and he was leaving on a deployment in a few months.
I was utterly wrong – I fell in love, hard and fast. I was certain of our whirlwind romance and, if it was possible, I believe he was more certain it would end in marriage. He said it from the first week – over FaceTime, of course. What he knew and what I also did was my dream to join the Navy.
So it has come up a few times, and each time, it just seems like a future problem. So I let it go and let him lead. The military is, after all, his life, his world, his domain. Obviously, I will never know or understand more than he does – not so long as I am a civilian.
Before I vent my frustrations, I want to be very, very clear. My fiancé is the most understanding, kind, supportive individual I know. He is empathetic, thoughtful and always on the lookout to see if he can make anyone’s life easier or better. He is even more so with me. We are very happy and very much in love. I would be willing to put my dreams on pause for him, yet he would never ever ask me to do so. In fact, he actively fought against me when I debated moving to where his base is and working in a city nearby (about 50 min driving distance). He wants my happiness above his own, and he always pushes me to strive for my best. From all he has said, it does seem that he would support me if I chose to join the Navy (albeit he always says he would prefer I join the Air Force instead.)
And yet, even though I know what a supportive sweetheart he is, I shake in my shoes and balk at the idea of bringing up this conversation because all of these feelings bring me to my current concerns that have my stomach in serious knots:
1) Can I lose myself so he can chase his dreams? Should I give up serving our country to support my fiancé – who is already serving our country?
2) Can a dual military life work? How do couples fair? If I don’t give up my personal goals to serve, how will joining affect our relationship? Will we ever be able to be stationed nearby? Would the more logical thing be for me to also join the Air Force (instead of my original plans for the Navy)? Should I wait longer after graduation – maybe complete all of my professional training before joining?
3) How would it affect our future children and home life? Will we be on opposite deployment schedules? Will we be deployed at the same time? If we are both deployed, how would we communicate? If we are both deployed, what would happen with our children? How would it affect our children emotionally? Should we try to have all of our children while I am in professional school before I join? If we wait, should we wait to have children until at least one of us isn’t in active duty? How will our extended families react? Will we be burdening them unnecessarily with emotional stress and perhaps even raising our children?
4) What about rank? My fiancé is enlisted. Graduating with a professional degree would make me an officer – depending on how much training I have before joining – my rank could be anywhere from O3 to O7 it seems. I know that legally I could join and there would be little issues about the difference in our rank because we were married before I joined. But I can’t help but wonder how would rank affect our relationship? I hope it wouldn’t but I don’t know if I can be so naive. Would this difference in rank be a bigger or smaller problem if I join the Air Force so that logistically our lives might be easier?
5) Will me joining get rid of this gnawing feeling I feel? Will I just feel worse in a different way – for putting my to-be husband through the training, stresses and possible deployments that my road of joining will bring?
On top of these frustrations, I do not even know who to turn to for advice…the dual military couples I know are friends with my fiancé. There doesn’t seem to be a good resource for learning about dual military life, or any blogs/books about it. The Navy recruiter I spoke to said it was “doable,” except my definition of “doable” is certainly not the same as the military’s idea of “doable.” I want it to be doable in a way that brings forth both our happiness, that allows us to serve our great country without hurting or abandoning our future children.
Like OneRepublic says in the song “I Lived,” I want to continue to live my life and I want my to-be husband and future children to do so to. I do not want to regret giving up a long time dream of mine to serve our country. The song says: “Hope when the moment comes, You’ll say I did it all, I did it all! I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places, the things that I did…I swear I lived.”
So I ask you fellow spouses, future spouses, and significant others, have you ever felt the call to service? Did you make the decision to join, or did you allow your service member to have that domain? How do you feel about your decision? Do you have any recommendations or resources for me as I figure this all out?