I knew early on in our relationship Ryan was the one I wanted to spend forever with.
Ryan and I had known each other 4 years before he decided to join the Navy. We had our share of ups and downs, but nothing tests a relationship quite like the military.
The Early Days
I met Ryan when I was 18 working at a local restaurant. He was 22 and just started bartending. We had an instant connection although we were just friends at first. Both of us were in a relationship with other people. After discovering we both were attending the same college that fall, my heart soared.
By fall we were both single. We spent 2 years as inseperable best friends and finally by March 2013 we officially start dating.
My senior year of college, Ryan had decided he wanted to join the Navy. I was completely on board and excited to support him on this new dream of his. When he told me boot camp was 8 weeks and we would have very little communication, my heart sank. We had hardly spent a few days apart from each other and that felt way too long. Still, I was in. Little did we know, that was just the start of this military life we were joining.
The Start of Military Life
While Ryan was at boot camp I wrote him 55 letters. He wrote me 35, which is impressive considering he was not given much time to write. We had one weekly phone call that was about 15 minutes. I was not allowed to call him back if I missed his call. The few times that happened to me, felt like a punch in the stomach. I had never missed him more than I did then. It is crazy going from living every day with someone to suddenly being on your own. At this point I didn’t know any other military spouse or significant other. I needed to stand on my own and find my way in a city where I didn’t know a soul.
After 8 weeks of boot camp, we still could not be together. Ryan had 3 more months of school in Texas. The positive was that we could communicate everyday. By the time he made it out to CA, he still had to do training on base during the week. We only got time together during the weekend, but we made the most of every second. To say I dreaded Mondays was an understatement. It wasn’t until we moved up to Oceanside and lived right next to Camp Pendleton that we started to see each other every day. Our apartment felt like it was “ours” and life felt right again.
This Isn’t Just a Job, It’s a Lifestyle
Just when we were getting used to being together, Ryan started having field trainings. He would be gone for days or even weeks at a time. Again, we would have little to no communication. Him being gone never got easier, although all of this was just preparing us for the biggest challenge of a military marriage… Deployment.
We had our big wedding in MN in September and by November we were saying goodbye again. This was going to be our longest time apart. I was proud of myself for staying strong as we hugged and kissed goodbye at 5AM on a Saturday morning. But you better believe I sobbed the whole way home. How was I going to do this?! These are the challenges in life where you find strength you never knew you had.
6 months simultaneously dragged on and flew by. I did all the things I loved, I had a few cry sessions, tried going vegetarian, and took a couple classes for fun. Finally May arrived and Ryan was home.
Starting a Family
Ryan and I were excited to grow our family when he returned from deployment. We cheered when that stick said yes and I was surprised it happened so fast!
Being pregnant does not change military duty. I’m not sure if it was the hormones, but it felt like Ryan was in the field 10x more than he ever was before. Also I felt like everything went wrong while he was gone. Our apartment had ant invasions, a fruit fly epidemic, and we got evacuated during the CA fires. I am a strong independent woman, but I was also pregnant and it felt like a lot to handle without a husband.
Ryan was even supposed to be gone when Arya was born. God was watching over us because he was there for her birth. I couldn’t imagine going through that labor without him. But so many military wives do…
We had almost 3 months of time as a family before Ryan’s second deployment. Deployment two tested us. We went long periods of time with no communication. I was taking care of a new baby and two dogs and missing my husband more than I knew was possible. This deployment forced us to spend 8 months apart. Being apart for that long had caused a harder transition back together. We have been on a learning curve that last few months, but are getting better every day.
I think of the men and women apart from their families for even longer. Deployment tests your relationship and can either make it stronger or break it. I have known couples that ended their marriage during and because of deployments. I have also heard women say deployments have saved their marriage.
It can be so easy to see the negatives. I’d be lying if I said they haven’t gotten to me at times. But I have made a conscious effort to keep the right perspective about being a military wife. Ryan and I make the most of our time together and work hard to communicate well with each other. I have a great support system of friends, family, and other military wives.
Our Military Marriage
The love I have for my husband has grown exponentially stronger since he joined the military. I am so proud of his hard work, dedication, and determination to continually succeed in his career while also providing for his family. We are each others biggest fans in life. We are still each others best friend.
My patience has grown since Ryan has joined the military although I never have enough of it. It is hard not to want the time apart to end faster while praying the time together slows down. I have learned to take each day as it comes because we can not get that time back.
We have sacrificed since Ryan has joined the military. We have sacrificed time together and jobs and lost friends. There have been friends and family events we could not attend. But we have also gained lifelong friendships and lasting memories. We live in one of the best places in the country. When we do attend events, it makes it even more special. We don’t waste time worrying about what doesn’t matter, we focus on what does.
I have experienced the honor and courage it takes to be part of the military life. They will lay down their lives for their country. They will give up time with their family and friends to serve their country. It is an honor to be a part of that community. It is one you cannot understand until you are in it.
Over the last 8 years, mine and Ryan’s relationship has withstood challenges and matured. My heart still aches for him when he is gone, but it makes him coming home that much more special. I do everything in my power not to take our time together or relationship for granted because I know how life feels like without him.