My favorite photo from our wedding is not professionally taken. It’s a snapshot of the two of us, casually taken after the church service as we huddled in the car on our way to the reception. Our wide smiles and bright eyes capture the relief that the ceremony is over – no one fainted! -and we are on our way to the fun part – the party! This picture sits atop my dresser and when I look at it I can’t help but remember the joyful optimism of these newlyweds.
The couple in this photo are preparing to move to California in just a few days. Steve would be attending language school to learn Chinese as part of his military training. They are excited to embark on their life together, build a home, a family. They hope to travel the world, try new things and meet new people. They are excited about the adventure of military life. At the time it seemed all wins – Paycheck! Health insurance! Education! Travel!
And these things would happen. We would be blessed with 4 beautiful children. We would get to live in some of the most beautiful places in the world and make amazing memories along the way.
But the groom in the photo, decked out in his army dress blues, has no idea that September 11th is less than a year away. The events and fallout of that day will change the trajectory of his military career. He has no idea that his planned few years in the army would stretch to 20. That helicopters are his future, not languages and military intelligence.
The care-free bride has no clue that multiple combat deployments lie in her future. Kissing her husband goodbye with a newborn infant in her arms would become a way of life. She doesn’t realize that she will spend over 4 years home alone and will need to find a way to deal with the stress of single parenting and the anxiety of loving a soldier whose life is perpetually at risk.
And neither has any idea that there will be a fiery helicopter crash. The results of which will permanently alter every aspect of their lives.