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Military Family Guest Blog: Our Life Together, But Apart

Meet Natalie, 26, a civilian who works for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Her husband, a captain in the U.S. Army, has been stationed in Afghanistan since March but is set to reunite with Natalie, and their 1-year-old daughter, Mikayla, around December 10. Here, we bring you their story of long-distance love in a series of guest blog posts.

My husband, Tommy, and I met while attending West Point.  We were in the same company at school, and we lived directly across the hall from each other. Combining our close proximity with the fact that we both played sports pretty much guaranteed that we ran into each other a lot.  We started dating his senior year, and after he graduated we maintained a long-distance relationship for a year before a summer assignment took me out to Hawaii, where he was stationed. Tough life, huh? 

The next time I saw him was Thanksgiving, and one month later he was deployed to Iraq for 15 months.  During his mid-tour leave, he was able to attend my West Point graduation…and he proposed! A week after my graduation he returned to Iraq, and I was discharged from the military following a spinal injury. He finally came home in February of 2009.  We were married in June, and have had three cross-country moves, and adopted two giant dogs since then.

When you marry a soldier, you understand that unless your husband is in school, he will deploy roughly every other year. You soon learn that there is no use trying to plan your life around deployments because, as they say, “our best laid plans oft go awry. “ So although it is less than ideal to raise a baby on your own for any period of time, it is certainly better than waiting until the timing is perfect, which for us would be never. With that in mind, we welcomed our daughter, Mikayla, into the world in August 2011 with the knowledge that Tommy would be leaving us in six short months.  Knowing this really helped us to enjoy those six months and soak in as much family time as possible. 

Mikayla's arrival also really highlighted the importance of maintaining lines of communication through the deployment. During Tommy’s previous deployment we were child- and dog-less, and had never even lived together.  We were both completely immersed in our jobs and spoke just once or twice a week on the phone due to the conditions in Iraq, and our busy schedules. 

This time around, we realized that we would both have to make daily communication a priority because not only is it important for the strength of our marriage, but also for developing and maintaining his relationship with Mikayla.  It has not always been easy with our crazy schedules, but we have been able to talk almost every day of this deployment.  The last time I was able to give him a hug,  or he held his daughter, was nine long months ago, but the last time  Mikayla and I saw his face was this morning.

Coming Friday: How I’m helping my daughter know her dad