“Standing there in the crowded university cafeteria, I shifted my books from one arm to the other, looking for a seat. In he came, with his dark brown hair neatly styled and his polo shirt tucked into his khakis. A familiar smile came over his face as he spotted me. I knew him from work. I guess I had never noticed before, but he was actually quite handsome. He waved as he approached me and said, ‘Are you trying to find a seat? We’ll probably get a table faster if we sit together.’ There was the slightest hint of a twinkle in his deep green eyes. He would later admit to me how proud he was of this ‘smooth’ line. We had lunch together that day. It became a regular thing. Two associates from work hanging out at school. Nothing more. Things went a step further when he friend requested me on Facebook. We would chat online for hours. He confided in me about girls and I confided in him about guys. We became fast friends. One day he said, ‘Hey, why don’t we hang out?’ I smiled and agreed. He picked me up, held my hand in the car and paid for the meal. It was definitely a date.
He showed up at my house a few days later with a single multicolored rose. It was storming outside and the rain was coming down sideways. There he was standing at my front door. ‘Will you be my girlfriend?’ He was so nervous. ‘Of course I will!’ I exclaimed. We hugged and shared the most romantic kiss. From that moment on, we celebrated every milestone. 1 month. 2 months. Half a year. People would roll their eyes but we didn’t care! Time went on and we grew closer. We fell deeper in love.
The proposal was perfect. It started with a limousine ride and a rooftop view of the river. He really spoiled me that day. Balloons, glitter, and candles filled the room as he walked me in to the rhythm of John Legend’s You and I. Tears filled my eyes as I took in the beautiful lyrics and the romantic atmosphere. While we were having dinner, he had enlisted the help of my sister to create a scene straight out of a fairytale. ‘It’s so beautiful,’ I whispered. He responded, also in a whisper, ‘You’re so beautiful.’ Then he dropped down to one knee.
After college he left to serve, just as his grandfather had before him. I stayed behind and began my work as a nurse. I still remember the last night we spent together before he shipped out. It was a freezing cold winter night. One of those nights where snow was welcomed but had not yet arrived. Cuddled there next to him on the couch he reached down and grabbed my hand. He whispered, ‘I sure am gonna miss you baby,’ to which I responded in a barely audible voice, ‘I’ll miss you too.’ They were the first words we had spoken in hours. I almost didn’t notice the tear roll down my cheek, had it not landed on my lips and startled me with its saltiness. He pulled me closer and I looked up at him. His eyes. They were filling up. I quickly looked away, not wanting him to know that I’d seen the tears.
So we sat in our embrace. Silent. Both aware that everything was about to change.
I dropped him off at MEPS the next morning. I proudly stood there as he said his oath and then gladly opened my arms for what they called ‘one last hug.’ I didn’t want to let go. I took in everything. The feeling of his arms around my waist. The smell of his aftershave. His chin resting on the top of my head. That familiar comfort that I’d come to know and love. Then I heard ‘Time’s Up!’ The words cut me like a knife as I reluctantly released my grip. I watched him as he left the room. I think I might have been okay had he not turned around and mouthed to me, ‘I Love You,’ just as he rounded the corner. And then he was gone. I lost it. Not wanting anyone to see me in my moment of weakness, I zoomed from the room and opted to take the stairs as opposed to the crowded elevator. I had to use the guardrail to get down them. I could barely see through my tears. My car was my refuge at that time. I don’t remember just how long I sat there but at some point I gathered myself and drove home. It was time to be strong.
Basic training was tough but I smiled every time I opened my mailbox to that familiar handwriting. There was something special about the way he wrote my name. ‘I need to go by the post office first.’ I must have said that a million times while he was away. We wrote so many letters back and forth that there was one in the mailbox almost every day. I think that helped a lot. I poured my emotions into my letters, being careful not to include anything that may have caused him to worry or be concerned. His training was in phases, each one harder than the one before. As we approached the last phase, he wrote, ‘mentally it may get a little difficult really soon.’ He seemed positive but a little unsure of what the future was going to hold. The same day I received that letter, I got online and printed out what must have been hundreds of motivational quotes. Such big words on such small pieces of paper. Hope. Positivity. I filled the envelopes with them and ended each letter with four simple words. ‘You got this babe.’ He later told me that helped him make it through.
And then graduation came and went. It literally felt that quick.
I still remember the first time I spotted him. Standing there in his full uniform. Handsome. Rugged. He looked so different but…his eyes. His eyes were the same gentle ones that I had come to know and love so much. I knew the exact moment that he spotted me too. He smiled at me with his eyes. Watching him graduate and conquer his goals, I was so proud. I told him so. I ran right up to him and as we embraced, I whispered, ‘I’m so proud of you babe.’ He just tightened his grip and I felt his body shake. Silent tears. ‘I love you so much baby,’ were the only words he said. He had missed me too.
Our celebration was short lived. He deployed merely months later. I wept when he told me.
Deployment day arrived. As I hugged him, the cool metal of his dog tags pressed against my cheek. I said through tears, ‘You better come back safely to me!’ before he climbed onto the big plane that was going to take him away. He looked me right in the eyes and said, ‘I will baby.’ We said a prayer together. It was the peace that I needed in that moment.
At first, I heard nothing. In the military, they say no news is good news. That’s easier said than experienced. Then he called me! Months went by filled with video calls, text messages and care packages. I prayed for his safety daily. As the time winded down, the excitement began to grow. One day he said, ‘Life is too short babe, let’s go ahead and get married.’ He was serious. I could hear it in his voice. We had been enjoying our engagement up until then. I was taking my time planning the perfect wedding. I don’t know what he saw over there. I have never asked. We married 3 days after his return.
The wedding was beautiful. Perfect. I couldn’t have imagined it in my dreams. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me during our first look. I stretched out my freshly manicured hand and tapped his shoulder, careful not to disturb his chord. He turned around and his mouth fell open. ‘Wow, she looks like a princess!’ I felt so beautiful at that moment. The ceremony came soon after. There we stood, on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean in Southern California. Literally on top of a cliff! Soft hues of blush and rose gold surrounded us. He arranged his beret. ‘Are you ready baby?’ My smile told him everything he needed to know. We wrote our own vows. I stood at the alter holding back tears as I heard him say the words he had said so many times before. ‘Always and Forever.’ This time just felt different. People surrounded us but at that moment it was just he and I on top of that cliff. A single tear rolled down his left cheek as we took our first dance. I reached up and gently wiped it away with my thumb. Time went by too quickly but I had enjoyed every minute of it.
As we have grown together, I notice more things I love about him. Like the way the corners of his eyes wrinkle when he smiles or how he kisses me on the forehead whenever dinner is ready. He still opens all my doors and pulls out my chairs. He holds my hand no matter where we are. Most importantly, he prays for me. Every time he walks out the front door he says, ‘I love you baby.’ I respond, ‘I love you too.’ He then comes back with ‘I love you more.’ I always jokingly say, ‘You better!’ He never walks out the front door without this exchange. It brings comfort to the both of us. I always keep my faith that he’s going to walk back in.
Being married to a soldier can be emotionally difficult but I am proud to stand by his side as he serves our country. Everyday is a new adventure. Our story is still being written. It sure has been a page-turner so far and I look forward to what’s yet to come.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sean and Sierra of Fayetteville, North Carolina. You can follow their journey on Instagram and YouTube. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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