Worlds apart: overcoming military separation
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- When I joined the military, I was prepared to make sacrifices throughout my career. Little did I know the long hours, deployments and a demanding workplace environment weren't the only challenges I'd face.
Like a number of other military families, I am married to another service member, doubling the hardships we're trained to overcome.
I met my then friend and now husband, Kyle, in high school, when we were both members of the U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program.
We built our friendship on deep conversations as we dreamt of our futures and our shared love of music. Just as quickly as we met, Kyle enlisted in the Coast Guard following his senior year and headed off to Washington where his ship deployed to South America every few months for three months at a time.
Throughout his absence, I faced my own challenges including medical inspections and physically training for the Air Force delayed entry program during the final few months of my senior year.
During each of Kyle's deployments, we clung to our e-mails by which we discussed our daily undertakings as our friendship developed into a long-distance relationship.
As our connection evolved, we spent as much time together as we could, despite our busy training and duty schedules.
Either by luck or fortune, Kyle and I found ourselves in the vicinity of Maryland at the same time following my graduation from Air Force basic military training. In the four months following, we went through our separate technical training schools where our relationship progressed to the next step and he proposed.
Amidst the excitement of our engagement, I received my first active-duty orders 10 hours away by plane at Misawa AB, Japan. I had always dreamed of traveling, so Kyle and I agreed to embrace the next two years, not as a curse, but as an opportunity to broaden my horizons and deepen our relationship.
Coming home to an empty dorm room after a long day at work and knowing Kyle is asleep on the other side of the world often leads us to dwell on the distance. Despite the odds, our relationship has thrived and after my six months stationed in Japan, we got married.
Since then, we have travelled the world during our time together. We take advantage of "environmental moral leave," which allows me to travel on a military aircraft in a space available status every six months to alleviate the financial stress of flying overseas.
Between our visits every three to six months, Kyle and I see each other through the screen of a phone, during my lunch and his breakfast, providing time for our connection to flourish.
When we aren't able to spend time together, I engross myself in college and take "Single Airmen Extreme" trips offered by Misawa's Outdoor Recreation Center.
The mentality of staying committed to each other despite the circumstances allows both of us, even though we're in separate time zones and military services, to remain resilient within our marriage.
Our situation has been uniquely difficult with the two of us being in different branches of the military, but it has a resolution in sight. After what has seemed like an eternity of 'goodbyes,' Kyle and I will soon be able to reunite when he separates from the Coast Guard in late 2016.
Although our time of being separated is coming to an end and our journey together is just beginning, the same struggle we share with other military couples has only made our bond stronger and will continue to do so. Accepting the difficulties of military service is something service members learn to do.
So despite the times where hardships appear overwhelming, it's important to continue to strengthen and maintain a healthy relationship, regardless of adversity. If Kyle and I can succeed, we know other couples can too.