“We met in high school. He was a year ahead of me, and he enlisted in the Navy when he graduated. We wrote letters to keep in touch. He flew home for Thanksgiving and came to our home town parade in uniform. I was marching in the pom squad, and when I saw him, I was smitten.
“We went on a date that Christmas — skiing. He spent the whole day skiing backwards, trying to teach me. On December 28, 2001, we made it official: we were a couple. We spent the next six and a half years dating long distance. He got orders to Guam right around the time I graduated from high school, and I didn’t even know where Guam was. Shortly after that, he put in an officer package and was accepted to the Naval Academy. He came home the day of my sister’s wedding, when I was in college. He proposed while we were skiing, while the sun was setting. He got down on one knee in his ski boots. It was two years to the day that we first started dating, and even though I was only 19 years old, I knew he was my soul mate. He is the love of my life, my best friend, and he knows me better than anyone else on earth.
“Nine years and two kids later, he left last week for his fourth deployment, our third with kids. The hardest part is watching our kids miss their dad, and making all of the big decisions on my own. It’s so hard to not have your spouse around to tell you that as a mom, you are are doing alright. Not having that affirmation is tough, but you get those glimmers of hope, those moments where you know you are doing just fine. Today is my birthday, and he was able to call, which was everything. It’s true the best gifts in life can’t be bought. My deployment mantra is, ‘I got this.’ I’m keeping a routine for my kids, I’ll keep relying on my faith, and our incredible friends and lots of prayers will get us through.
“It’s funny, this military life. Your friendships become as dear as family. I never thought I’d be so close to people I’m not related to — you make amazing and heartbreaking friendships. I can’t imagine another situation where, by choice and by force, you’d be put with such remarkable and diverse people. You really feel your support during the hard times.
“Last summer, there was a mishap in the helicopter my husband was flying. That phone call was the single most terrifying and miraculous news I’ve ever received. He, and the rest of the crew, walked away from it. But in that moment, you realize how precious life is, how special your marriage is, and just how truly incredible your village is. From the friend that watched the kids while her husband drove me to the hospital, to the friends that brought dinner that night, and the generous outpouring of love and prayers, it’s humbling. The hard times bring you so, so close. There is great power in laughing together, but sometimes it’s the grief that brings you closest. When I had my miscarriage, my best friend sat with me on the floor and cried with me when there were no words. She picked off the pieces of toilet paper that were stuck to my face when I ran out of Kleenex. You don’t know while you’re in those tough moments that you’ll get through, but when you come out on the other side, you see just how strong you are. And so I keep repeating, ‘I got this.’ And I know I do.”