When I met my fiancee, I was in my second year of college and he was in his first. His dream was to graduate college and join the Marines as an officer. I had always said that I would never date someone in the military because my father was and my mother spent a lot of time alone raising my sister and I. B ut Kasey was cute and I figured “who knows where this will go?”

Six months later he left college to pursue his career in the Marine Corps. He decided that he just couldn’t wait any longer. Though I cared for him, I didn’t feel as though I was strong enough to do what my mother had. So I left him…but not for long. I couldn’t stay away and decided “what the heck?” and agreed to stand behind him while he followed his dream in defending our country.

Now, we have had a few unlucky occurrences as many military families have I’m sure. He was supposed to leave for boot camp in October. He called me on a friday afternoon in August and said my recruiter just called I leave Monday….The Marine Corps has caught me off guard more then once since then. I always try to be prepared for the unknown, the disappoint and last minute decisions. After 13 weeks of seperation and 90 letters on my part, he finally came home for a short time then was sent to California for training and school.  I thought we were so lucky that he got stationed in NC, only 6 hours from me. But he wasn’t there long before  I got the call…

It was Thursday…he called and said “I know I’m in a nondeployable unit…but the radio operator who was supposed to go out with the next unit got pregnant so that she didn’t have to deploy…I leave in six days…sorry” Instantly I panicked. He hadn’t even been in the Marines for a year and they were deploying, something I had tried to prepare for. Everyone else I knew, found out about their deployments three to six months in advance, but not us. I traveled up for the weekend to say goodbye. I could only stay two days because Georgia Southern has the policy that if you miss the first day of a class, it is dropped. He happened to be leaving my first week of classes.

So, here I am 5 months into our 7 monthish deployment and am surprised that I have made it this far this gracefully. I admit the week he left, I was like a character out of a romance movie after a breakup. I cried for hours a day, and worried. He was headed for Al Asad, near Baghdad and though things were better, there were still regular military deaths in the news. I struggled to get out of bed and even attend class. I searched for people who could relate and understand what I was going through, but there was none to be found. All the while I was constantly met with phrases like “I can’t be away from my boyfriend for even a week” or “how do you do it?”  To this my reply was  “I just wake up every day and do it”

I jumped everytime the phone rang and slept with it in my hand. I prayed all the time, something I had rarely done before. I wrote him constantly snail mail and e mail. His spirits were high and he was the strong one. There were days when I wanted to say ” I can’t do this. I can’t be alone for the rest of my life. I don’t want to marry someone who is gone all the time” But I kept the comments to myself and focused on each day.

Looking back these short 5 months, I see how much I have grown. I have planned the entire wedding alone and focused on school. When he returns in March, I’ll have only 2 short months until graduation. I realized that I really underestimated myself. I tell girls that I meet who are considering a serious relationship with someone in the military all the time: It takes a really strong person, who is committed and able to stay busy. You have to understand that in your own way you are supporting this country too, but supporting the man you love and being there. To tell him that you love him when he needs to hear it the most, and send the supplies that keep him happy.

I have found that the stress and tears have been well worth it. And though at first I didn’t handle it gracefully, I don’t know who anyone that would with only 6 days notice. I assume that by 2010 or 2011 he will be deployed again and that this will be a regular part of our lives since he plans to do a 20 year career. The connection that we have made over our talks during this seperation have made our relationship so rich. I see people our age around campus fighting about the most insignificant things. Appreciation is huge to us and the time we do get together is priceless.

In our two years together I would guess we have only been in the same room together maybe 8 months worth? In July we’ll get married and I’ll move to NC to be with him and those first few months will be the most we have ever spent together and we will cherish every moment until deployment comes again. But I’m glad I decided to stick it out. I can’t imagine life without him. I’m so proud to be in love with a Marine.

His dedication to service is unlike anything I have ever seen before. He is willing to be away from all the things and people that he loves in order to serve. And though at times we both second guess his decision, we always end up agreeing it was the best choice. Like my father, when asked why he joined the Marines he says “I was in 7th grade, and I just knew I was born for one thing, and that was to be a Marine and protect those who cannot protect themselves”  I’m proud to say that I serve this country too.