To say I knew nothing about what military life was like before becoming a Navy wife is an understatement. I grew up in Eastern Iowa, where there are no military bases, and therefore had no exposure to people in the military. In my mind, being military meant going to war or being overseas, and that sounded like the most dangerous job there was. It never crossed my mind that I might one day end up marrying into this world. The day that the man I loved told me he was considering joining the Navy, I accepted it with an open mind. My thoughts circled around moving around the world, writing letters filled with sweet nothings, going to fancy balls together, and proudly wearing a “Navy Wife” t-shirt. I had no idea how much this decision would end up shaping our entire life together.
Dreaming of our future together during our sophomore year of high school – May 2009
The first time Curtis ever mentioned joining the military was in April of 2009. We were in our sophomore year of high school, our young love beginning to blossom, and were planning our future together over Facebook Chat. Our plans were as follows: We would both attend Iowa State University together, Curtis would do Air Force ROTC, and we would get married no later than the fall following graduation (I marked October 12, 2015 on the calendar of my flip phone). Curtis would serve his 4 years or so, then we would get out and he would either go into engineering or teaching, and we would live happily ever after.
Time passed, and of course our plans changed over time. When senior year rolled around, Curtis began looking into Navy ROTC, but eventually decided against it when he received a scholarship to the University of Arizona. There were no solid plans for our future together the day he moved away, but we learned a few things from that first semester living 1600 miles apart: We liked each other too much to stay apart, but our relationship was strong enough to survive the distance long-term. When he came back for Christmas break, we made our relationship official and began scheming how we could put an end to living long-distance.
Spring Break in Chinle, AZ – March 2012
In March of 2012, I visited Curtis for his freshman year spring break. Right before I returned home, he mentioned that he was going to a job fair to look for internship positions for the summer. This meant that he potentially wouldn’t be coming home to Iowa for the summer like we had originally hoped. I left in tears. However, he learned from the job fair that there were no internships for physics or astronomy majors. In fact, there was only one booth interested in physics majors: the US Navy.
Curtis spent that afternoon talking to a recruiter, and later called me to tell me everything he had learned: There was a teaching position which he could apply for during his sophomore year that would pay him to complete college, then he would attend OCS and a school in South Carolina, and then go on to teach at that school. “This means I will be coming home this summer. And if I get into the program within the next year, I could make a decent amount of money so that you and I could get married next summer!”
Guess who liked that idea?
I responded by saying that I’d support him no matter what, but checked to verify that he wouldn’t actually have to deploy or be away from me if he were only teaching. Then I went on to research what it’d be like to live in South Carolina and started a wedding board on Pinterest. Yep, I could handle this.
A few months later, Curtis returned home for 3 months of summer vacation. I was working as a newly licensed massage therapist and part time as a nanny, and he was detasseling corn and selling his plasma. Together we were planning our future, beginning to inform our parents of our plans, and enjoying every second before he returned to Arizona that fall.
At the beginning of his sophomore year, Curtis returned to talk to the recruiter and begin the long process of applying for the teaching position. However, when he began to inquire about the teaching program, the recruiter replied, “Listen, if you want to teach, go be a civilian teacher. If you want to be in the Navy, you should be in the Navy.” That argument was quite compelling to Curtis, and he called me that night to discuss it. My questions were, “What’s the longest you’d be gone?” “How long would you be committing to the military?” and “Could we still get married next summer?” When I got the answer I wanted for that last question, I was sold. I googled “military wife blog” and started doing a little research, which turned into shopping online for the perfect Navy Wife t-shirt.
Curtis told me what the application process consisted of, and the way he had heard about it made it sound like it could happen within that semester (my interpretation of this was that he could join the Navy by December then propose to me at Christmas). However, we began to get a small taste of the typical “hurry up and wait” rule that exists within the military. Curtis would be given paperwork or an assignment, he would complete it right away, then wait a while for the next step. The steps were as follows: the initial application, pass a physical in Phoenix, pass the security interviews, travel to San Diego to tour a boat, pass a phone interview, then finally travel to Washington DC for the final interview and hopefully acceptance into the program. The trips were continually delayed and the final interview ended up being pushed all the way to March. I was devastated, thinking there was no way we could pull off an engagement and summer wedding after that point.
However, at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s, Curtis got on one knee and asked me to marry him. This meant everything to me, since we were still unsure of whether the military thing would work out — it was him saying to me that regardless of whether this Navy program worked out, he still wanted to start our future together as soon as possible.
A few months later, he finally made the trip to Washington DC for his interview, and was accepted into the Navy NUPOC program. “I’m gonna be a Navy wife!” I exclaimed excitedly to friends and family. I thought about all the potential moves we would make and trials we would face, seeing it all with rose-colored glasses playing out like a movie. Sure we would face many challenges, but each would bring us closer together, and at the end of it all he’ll come off that boat all handsome in uniform and I’ll be wearing a pretty dress and go running into his arms, and we would run off into the sunset together, happily ever after.
To say that I had no idea what I signed up for is a total understatement.