Way back in the year of 2001 me and my bro DP Killa were driving around after a night of drinking and conjuring up plans of destruction. We were in the mighty city of Newark, it had been snowing out and was a little chili, when out of nowhere DP looks at me a says, “Hey I am going to join Army, if I don’t do it now I will never do it.” Well, hell it sounded like a great idea to me. We spent the rest of the day looking for recruiters and eventually signing paper work. At the time I had no idea how drastically my life was going to change in what now feels like a very short amount of time.
Fast forward to September 11, we all watched the world change. Things were going to be different. My young career in the military, which I hadn’t even been to basic training yet, was also going to take a very different path then just one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. I was working at a local hospital as a patient escort when I watched things unfold on the television. I remember standing there thinking, “look some jack ass just flew into a building in New York.” Then within seconds the second plane hit. We all knew instantly that something was very wrong. You could feel it in your stomach, your heart, and your head. Numb, we all stood and watched, waiting, mesmerized by the acts that unfolded in front of us. I went from signing up for the army to get some college benefits, to wanting to defend my Nation. Little did we know that would happen time and time again.
In January of 2002 I woke up in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, it was cold, but it would get a lot colder. Basic training would last until May of 2002 where I learned to be a Soldier and a Military Police officer. With only two weeks remaining in training I was excited to get home, I was 21 and ready to have a shit ton of fun. I called home to talk to DP and see how things were back on the front, he then told me that the unit I would be going to got word that they were going to Saudi Arabia. I was stunned, I didn’t think that we would be going over sea’s so quickly. Just one year after the events of 9/11 I found myself living in Saudi Arabia, searching people and cars for bombs on a daily basis. I hadn’t even gotten the chance to flex my bar muscles yet. October though is when my life began to change forever.
The base that we were stationed on only had dial up internet, and a few land lines that we could use to call home. The computer access was limited and so were the phone calls. I would reserve using these items to merely call back home and talk to my brothers DP, and Sean, as well as talking to my dad. One day speaking to my dad he informed me that he gave my email address to girl that he met through a co-worker. The co-worker in the end was her uncle and I had known him for years. He said that he told her that I was single and only really talked to a couple of people back home. He thought it would be a good idea for me to have someone else to talk to. Man was he right, although for some time he thought my eventual wife was actually her cousin.
I received an email one day with what appeared to by an online bio for a dating website. You could tell just reading the email that the sender was nervous and didn’t want to put themselves out there too much but in doing so came of cute and goofy. She mainly described her likes and dislikes and where she went to school, and what hobbies she had. I responded with a lot of the same information back, and this began the dialogue between us. The truth is we both started out with no expectation that this would lead to anything other than friendly conversation, I mean what if we weren’t attracted to one another. At least I was 10,000 miles and could stop talking at any time. We continued to email, and even talked on the phone a bit. The conversations were fun and we both had a lot to say. Honestly the best part of these conversations were that we were both being 100% honest about what we were looking for in a relationship. There was no hiding anything, there was no conforming to the other’s needs. When we realized this was happening we began to talk more personal things and the conversations got deeper. Time stood still when we spoke, and we both began anticipating the next correspondence. When incidents would happen and we lost connectivity on the base, I felt like my world was coming apart. I then realized I was waiting for her, as she was waiting for me.
May 5, 2003. It was on this day that I would finally meet the voice on the other end of the phone, meet the digital pen pal that I told most of my secrets and needs to for the last 8 months. First I had to escape the entrapment of a coming home ceremony, get dismissed, pack a bag, and head to the beach where she was celebrating her best friend Kelly’s, aka #2, 21st Birthday. Once we were dismissed I rushed home packed up, kissed the family, and rolled out. It took me about two hours to get to Ocean City, Maryland where the girls were hanging out at a night club/bar called SEACRETS. That place is awesome. I got to the parking lot, and called her on my cell phone. I could hear the excitement and fear in her voice, and then quickly realized that she was running. Like fast, like jumping hurdles in the Olympics fast. I was still trying to park when I looked out the driver side window, and finally saw her. She was no longer running fast, in my eyes she had hit slow motion, fear and excitement had now crept into my body. What is she going to think, what is she going to say, what if she keeps running? I quickly parked, probably illegally, but whatever, and jumped out, and hugged the most amazing women ever. I couldn’t believe it, after all this time she was there, she was real, and we were finally together.
It didn’t take me long to make a move and finally kiss this woman. Not that I move fast, but this was just right. She was at the bar ordering me a drink, and I basically blacked out, love had overcome me and when she turned I just went for it. This was completely out of character for me, it was not calculated, it was not thought out, is was spontaneous, and reckless, and we both loved it. We spent the rest of the night partying and introducing me to all of her friends, Adam, Kelly aka #2, Horsecock, and many others. By nights end we ended back at the hotel they were staying at in Dewey Beach, and we talked and held each other, mesmerized that the day was finally here and it was perfect. I retreated to the hotel across the street where DP was staying with his eventual wife. I laid there for a while blown away by the night that had just transpired. Things were going to be awesome for here on out.
In August 25 2005 was the day that I was going to pop the question. I choose to do it at the beach, a place that we love and where friends were there with us, especially #2. We had rented a place in Dewey with Sean and a bunch of other people, and I used him as my confidant, to help me muster up the courage to ask the big question. I have no idea why I was nervous I knew she would say yes, but there I was shaking like a leaf. I had put the ring in a gum ball case, one that you would get from the little red machines in pizza joints or grocery stores. I walked out on the balcony where everyone was pre-staged, and shook it around and told her I wanted to practice proposing to her. She laughed and told me I was crazy. I got down on one knee, grabbed the wrong hand, which she corrected for me and then I began to speak.
Still laughing she looked around and noticed that no one else was laughing. They were crying, and so was I. It was at that moment she realized this was real, and that the ring in the case was not plastic but the real deal. I wish I could tell you the words I used that day, but I whimpered and cried so much that once she said yes I stopped talking and kissed her. Besides the white trash party, we threw that week, this was the best thing to happen.
The military would continue to test our resolve as a couple over and over again. To be honest my career would have ended early if it were not for my wife. Soon after the engagement, I would find myself in Mississippi, helping those in need after hurricane Katrina hit. It was devastating, and came just a week after getting engaged. What we didn’t realize that week was that the events were unfolding as we were partying at the beach, no one watched the news, no one picked up a paper, we were oblivious to it. Then I got a call to volunteer to go, I excepted, and off I went. In the Spring of 2006 I would go to Italy for 3 weeks. A great time but yet again more time away from my future bride. We were scheduled to be married on August 26th of that year, and nothing was going to stop that, and it didn’t.
The day we got married to me is the greatest day ever, between the wedding and the reception I had never had more fun in my life. There truly is no feeling like when you finally get to see your bride in her dress being handed off to you by her father. It is amazing, and goes way to fast. In the blink of an eye we were getting ready for what as the most important time of our lives to trying to get a nap in at a hotel in Philly waiting to go on our honeymoon. We kept asking each other, what happened, and where did the day go. Needless to say the day went great, and apparently the after party was even better.
Our Honeymoon was in Maui, what is probably the most amazing place on earth. We spent more money than we had, so much so that we only had a few dollars left by the end of it. We snorkeled, went horseback riding in the mountains, flew to pearl harbor, helicopter rides, submarine ride, and did the road to Hana. The most amazing trip ever and we couldn’t stop smiling the entire time. That was until the flight home. The flight from Hawaii to Dallas was good, long but good, we got to the airport, grab a small bite to eat and jumped on the connecting flight from Dallas to Philly. The plane was pretty empty, and the flight was going smooth for the most part. My brand new bride was sleeping with her head in my lap and I was reading a book. She quickly rose to the smell of smoke, but it had that electrical scent to it. Sure enough that’s when stewardesses began to gather a few rows behind us, and talk about the small fire and that they needed to turn the plane around. I would say that they were a little panicked at this point. My wife exclaimed that “Oh great this is it, I had the greatest day ever, and an amazing honeymoon, and now I going to die on the plane home.” Somehow my wife believes that this was destined for her by making the statement, “well that’s just my luck” No, not today, it was a small electrical fire yes, but the super cool pilot came over the speaker and said it was going to be okay, as soon as we land in Little Rock Arkansas and fix the issue. He said it in such a smooth way that I was like “cool.” I didn’t appreciate when the panicked stewardess came by and try to sell me a chocolate muffin though. I am pretty sure that she should have just given it to me, being that it could be my last meal and all.
The spring of 2007 we would be tested again, with me going to Arizona for three weeks to conduct border security. Great mission and I got to live on the side of a mountain for a couple days a week. After returning it wasn’t much longer before we got word that we would be deploying again, this time to Baghdad, Iraq. This one would be different, it was during the surge in Iraq, I was no longer single, and we were trying to get careers off the ground, plus we had just bought a home two years prior. Low and behold almost five years to the day I was once again sitting in a foreign nation. This would test the resolve of our marriage, I was older and in charge of troops this time, rather than just myself. I was looked at differently in the company, and kept my head down and worked hard to make sure we did the right things in order to get home. The wife struggled at times with me being away, I learned on this one that the job at home is far worse, and harder than the job I was doing. I was able to live in a fantasy world almost, no bills, responsible only for a few, I didn’t have to worry about too many things. She on other hand had the news, constant rumors, thoughts, and varying emotions. Through it all she stayed strong, and rarely let on that it was difficult. Gone for a year I would return home, where my wife once again would help me transition back to normal life, and begin to prepare for the next stage in our lives, children.
It was in February that I came home on R & R that I was able to get my wife pregnant. This was super exciting and couldn’t wait to be a father. We planned for names, we planned for the sex, and we got ourselves ready for whatever we were going to have. We found out that we were having a little girl. I mean this when I say it, that I never cared what the sex was, I just wanted a healthy baby. In November of that year little Rylee would test us right out of the gate. Everything had been going well until the final push, when the umbilical cord got caught around her next and cut off her oxygen. The doctor worked quickly to get her out, and then placed the limp, grey baby on my wife’s chest. We had no idea what the next step was, a nurse came over and explained that a lot of people were going to come in the room, and not to be nervous, my wife couldn’t see that. They whisked my baby away and took her to another table, time once again slowing down, and the only thing I could do was to reassure my wife that this was procedure and everything was okay. She couldn’t stop asking why isn’t my baby crying, why. Talk about heart breaking, I stood there dumb founded, my mother in-law next to me stunned as well. I just kept saying it is going to be okay. The group of nurses came in the room and worked feverously to revive my little angel. Then all of a sudden there was a loud cry and she went from grey to pink. They did it, they saved her, everything was going to be okay. We later found that not long before Rylee was introduced to this world another family member had passed. I am not very religious at all but you have to take solace in the fact that he passed and she was introduced under tough circumstances. It was during this time that I saw how truly strong my wife was. Baby Rylee had to stay in the NICU, neonatal intensive care unit, for observation for the next week. It was but just a few hours after giving birth that my wife snuck down to go be with her. I was in a sleep coma, and had no idea what she was doing. She couldn’t rest she had to go see her. It got so bad that the nurses told us to go home after the third day, my wife’s legs were carrying a lot of fluid and she needed to rest. She had only one thing on here mind and that was that baby. She would have a walked a thousand miles each day to she if she had too. The strength of a mother is something to marvel at.
Life continued and we continued to grow as a family. The wife and I began new careers in 2009 and everything had been looking on the up and up. She was doing great at her new company and I couldn’t have been happier for her. This year posed a different challenge for us though. After returning from Iraq in 2008 I went back to work at in my civilian job but quickly found that something was missing. I was struggling to adapt to life outside of the military. Now, by no means did this mean that I ever though I had PTSD or anything like that, I had just grown accustomed to the structure and life in the military. So I began looking for jobs in the National Guard. I was fortunate enough to land a full time job, after being beaten out of other jobs. We both had now started new careers, and within the next year I would attend a lot of training, that selfishly put a strain on me and my family. At one point I had traveled 6 out of 8 weeks. This was frustrating for my wife because she was balancing a new job, and trying to take care of the baby. I went back and forth and thought nothing of it. This quickly turned into her thinking I wasn’t in it anymore. It was a time for reflection and I promised her from that day forward that I would be more open about feelings, and what my plans are and I made a self-promise to get back to being a team, and not an individual. Traveling for work can be tough on a family, later down the road my wife would travel for work and start to realize the struggles it can bring.
By late 2010, 2011 we were rolling, working hard raising an amazing daughter and looking to sell our home and move into our forever home. We talked about having another kid and how exciting that would be. That was all great, expect that in 2011 we got word again, yup another deployment. This shit is getting old. So it was off to Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2013. We bought a house before I shipped out, and held off on having another baby. Hopefully this would be the last one. This was different, we knew what to expect, what was coming, and how to adjust when I got back. We were veterans at this by now. Once again she played my anchor, and rock at home while I was able to focus on the deployment. The biggest difference this time was that I had to leave my daughter behind. If you ever thought, it was tough saying goodbye to your spouse trying saying it to a 4-year-old. Wow, that is tough.
After returning in in the fall of 2013 having our deployment cut short, life seemingly picked up where it left off. I took some time off before going back to work, and jumped back in. The wife’s career was flowing by this point and we were ready for that second baby. By September of 2014 we introduced our second child into the world, Chayse.
She was amazing and came out with no hiccups at all. This was indeed a very different experience. My daughters are amazing and keep me grounded, they will test you as a man, but it takes a man to raise children.
My household feels complete, and looking back there were days when I was young that living in this type of family structure wasn’t possible and only existed on television. I mean really, I am married, two kids, a dog, a cat, and a fence. The fence isn’t a white picket fence but it’s a fence. I am now on the back end of my military career and continuing to focus on the future. My wife is steadily approaching the height of her career, and each day she becomes more and more successful. I couldn’t imagine things being any other way.
I tell this story because August 26 2016 marks our ten-year anniversary. I have had an amazing marriage and life up to this point. I would love to tell you that there are secrets to being married, but there isn’t. There are different formulas that work for different people. Some don’t work at all, and that’s ok. Our formula is a complicated algorithm of patience, understanding, laughter, sacrifice, keeping old friends, not being afraid to spend time away from each other, and just enjoying each others company. When I tell you I married my best friend, girlfriend, my drinking partner, and soul mate, I truly mean that. Find what works for you, find happiness and be honest about what makes you happy. We got lucky and found each other at the right time in our lives, some search a lot longer than we did. In the end, don’t sacrifice your happiness to satisfy the needs of others. Make the best of this life, I know I am.
This is dedicated to my rock, my confidant, and the love of my life. Happy Anniversary Nicole.