“I still cannot believe that I found the man of my dreams in a war zone,” shares Heather*. She is an Army veteran and Army wife, who met her husband while they were both deployed to Afghanistan. Because the military has strict policies in place on intimate relationships in this situation, names have been changed to protect privacy.
Right Place, Right Time
Heather joined the Army at age 31. She was a 36B, Finance Management and landed a full-time GS role as Financial Management Technician. She worked with the Massachusetts National Guard State Headquarters in Milford, which was later relocated to Hanscom AFB. In May of 2013, Heather’s unit (detachment) deployed to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Jacob had been in the Army since age 17. He began as a 35F, Intelligence, and later re-classed with a double MOS of 88N, Movement Control. Jacob relocated from his Reserve Unit in Kansas to a unit at Devens, MA. When his path crossed Heather’s, Jacob was on his third deployment.
Heather shares, “Upon arrival at my housing, there were a few soldiers that helped move our equipment in. Weeks later, I found out this was my husband and his buddies.” She lived on the floor below Jacob and enjoyed hanging out outside their housing as a group. Together they would smoke cigarettes, relax in the sun, play cards and listen to music. Heather recalls, “Our first conversation was about the Bruins and Blackhawks and how the Hawks had won the Stanley Cup. We basically started as rivals right away but in a playful way.”
Heather and Jacob began spending more time together. “As you had to have a same-sex battle buddy and no one in your room of the opposite sex, dating was a little different,” she explains. “We did movie night where we would sit in the hallway or I would be in my room and he would be in the hallway so there was visibility. We hung out in groups of our soldier friends playing cards, watching movies, and going to dinner in order to follow all of the appropriate guidelines put forth by the military.”
The hardest thing in all this according to Heather? “Displays of affection, as you never wanted to cross the line or risk getting in trouble, so a lot of the time I felt like a flirtatious teenager.”
Getting Serious, Seriously Fast
Heather and Jacob were aware that once their forward operating base (FOB) was shut down, they would have to part ways. They questioned if they could handle long-distance dating without hardly knowing each other.
Working in finance, Heather noticed couples submitting documentation of marriages while deployed. “I looked into this and found that we could be married by Double Proxy out of Big Sky Events in Montana, so I brought it up in conversation one night.” A day or so later, Jacob declared, “Let’s get married.” Heather borrowed her unit’s truck on her day off and the couple drove to JAG. Their paperwork was signed, notarized and sent out via FedEx. “We had no idea when the marriage would actually go through, but we knew that we would have each other once deployment was over. It was after five weeks of ‘dating’ when we decided to get married.”
Life as Newylweds
Only days later, Heather was called home by Red Cross. “My father had fallen ill and was having complications. I was sent home on emergency leave to spend my last few moments with him.”
On August 30, Heather and Jacob were notified that their marriage was official, and on Sept 3, Heather’s father passed away.
Heather shares, “I called Red Cross and sent for my husband. He met my whole family — obviously for the first time. We had originally planned to keep it a secret until we both returned from overseas in Jan-Feb of the following year.”
While on leave, Heather and Jacob conceived a baby. When the newlyweds returned to Afghanistan, they were on separate bases. Jacob was later sent to Heather’s base, and there he learned that they were expecting.
Heather explains, “Being married, we were able to be battle buddies. We could go to the DFAC or PX without others with us.” She spent the next week preparing paperwork to send her home from deployment due to pregnancy. Heather clarifies, “We did not receive any sort of punishment as we were a married couple on leave.”
Heather returned home in October and was on leave for a few months, awaiting Jacob’s return to the States. She describes, “This was much different than being over there with him and the time change definitely made it hard. I think knowing what really goes on over there made it harder for me as his ‘gotta go’ made me really think about the possibilities and risks he was facing.”
Taking a Chance On Love
Heather realizes that if they had been sent to separate bases, things might have ended. “I had to take a chance and the way we saw it was we wanted this in our future so why not now? We took a chance and it paid off,” she shares.
Heather explains that their relationship wasn’t about sex, it was about love. “Spending time with him talking without all the fancy first dates, late nights and the sexual part is what drew us closer to one another. It made us stronger than other relationships.”
When I asked Heather how she would advise others in a similar situation, she shared, “As a civilian, follow your heart, don’t be afraid to take a risk. As a veteran and former soldier, be careful, be smart, don’t jump into anything, and don’t let something temporary risk your military career. Stay true to the rules set in place for your safety and be true to yourself. Don’t do something you will later regret.”
Heather and Jacob now have a beautiful daughter, have wonderful careers and are in the process of buying their first home together. And, as she shares, “He still remains my best friend.”
I thank Heather for sharing their incredible story with us.
Powered by Facebook Comments