What it’s really like dating someone in the military
So how similar is it to Dear John (aside from the Channing Tatum aspect)…
Military couples have been seriously dramatized in media and entertainment over the years. Channing Tatum was the misunderstood active soldier while Amanda Seyfried was the heart aching girlfriend in Dear John. Leaving the theater, you probably wanted a romance like that, but then again, it’s just a movie so how much truth is really in something like that?
Sitting down with three couples in different stages of the military and service, some light has been shed on the difficulties of loving someone serving our country.
Khabeera and Robert
Khabeera Calaman, 21, and Robert Lenahan, 20, have been together for around six months. Both attending Mansfield University, Robert has decided to enlist in the National Guard, while Khabeera is receiving her Bachelor’s degree in social work.
How has Robert decision to enlist impacted you?
Khabeera: “I don’t know that it’s had a very big impact on me yet. On one hand, it solidifies our relationship a little more, because I see this as a very positive step for him. I can tell he is making good decisions for himself and thinking of his future, a future that may include me. On the other hand, his life is his life and my life is mine. There’s a chance that our dreams will take us in completely different directions. Only time will tell.”
Has it influenced any of your school and/or career choices?
Khabeera: “It’s influenced his school and career choices for sure. He will now have the chance to go to any state school in Pennsylvania for free. He had no intentions of getting a master’s degree before the military, but now he might go on to get a doctorate. He scored very, very well on his ASVAB and is already starting a higher rank (as well as pay) so the possibilities are endless.
“I’m going to keep doing what I have been regardless of that, because I am exactly where I need to be right now. However, he has said that if we have to move because I take a job somewhere else, he would be willing.”
Are you ready for him to be gone on and off the next couple years?
Khabeera: “No I am not. I am so proud of him but very sad. I’ll miss him terribly. He is my best friend.”
Ria and Justin
Ria Patel, 21, and Justin Hunsinger, 21, started dating in June of 2012. Staying together through high school and into college, Justin has been serving active duty in the United States Marine Corps since high school graduation while Ria is getting her Bachelor’s degree in health studies at East Carolina University .
What’s it been like to be with someone active duty throughout your whole college experience?
Ria: “You don’t realize how much your life will change when you get into a military relationship. It all hits you while they’re in boot camp. I soon realized that whatever rules and regulations they follow goes for me as well. Almost as if I signed my name to the government right beside him. You learn that the Marine Corps always comes first and your life now revolves around the Corps and your marine. Your relationship just isn’t the same again.
“Being in college and seeing other couples engaging in conversations and going on dates only makes you cherish the 20 minute phone calls you receive. College life revolves around the relationships and bonds you make with others, which only makes me wonder, ‘what if he didn’t sign up?’ You experience levels of excitement, stress and frustration being a milso (military significant other), especially with the distance. You miss out on memories you could have made and the holidays they missed. All you can do is look forward to the day you meet them again. Even if it may be for only a couple days. Regardless of the struggle, you feel so much pride.”
Is it anything like how military couples are portrayed in movies like Dear John?
Ria: “Dear John did a good job of portraying the distance between military couples better than other Hollywood movies. Unlike a lot of military movies, there isn’t always a happy ending. If your not married then you don’t typically get much time with your military significant other as most movies show. With deployment, there are usually more arguments due to a lack of communication or just simply nit-picking, due to the frustration of absence because you can’t be there for one another emotionally.
“Movies usually show scenes of when the couples are together but don’t necessarily depict the impact military life has on couples when they are apart. Just like boot camp you go through stages. You feel calm, collective and confident in the beginning, thinking you have the deployment, or distance, handled. Half way through you start to miss them more both physically and emotionally. Towards the end you feel frustration, due to waiting, knowing that they are almost coming home.”
How has Justin serving in the military impacted your career and/or education choices?
Ria: “An advantage of the distance in dating someone in the military is the opportunity it gives you to find yourself. It gave me a chance to think about myself and what I wanted in life. I revised my decisions about what I wanted to do in school and for my future. It was something I strongly needed because I felt so lost. I didn’t know what I wanted in life anymore and during this time everything just seemed to click. When we get into relationships we tend to put our care into our significant others so much that sometimes we forget to think about ourselves and our needs and wants in life. I didn’t want to forget myself so the distance definitely put my future in perspective.”
Chyenne and Reynaldo
Chyenne Valentin, 20, and Reynaldo Valentin, 21, met while they were at boot camp for the National Guard. Married as of January 4, 2015, Chyenne and Rey welcomed their first child Ava on October 12, 2015. Rey is still enlisted while Chyenne is taking the time to stay at home to be a full-time mom.
How has the service changed your life?
Chyenne: “I found my husband while serving. The health care has completely covered my pregnancy, birth and my chronic Guttate psoriasis. I’m getting to make a lot of friends who become family, free gym access on post, and I got to experience amazing training that I’ll never forget.”
How has serving and being with someone in the service influenced your school and/or career choices?
Chyenne: “It has given me the opportunity to be a stay-at-home wife comfortably. If I had stayed in, I might have gone to college and it would have cost me little to no money. If I attend college now as a military spouse I could be eligible for military discounts.”
What has it been like to meet your husband and start a family while in the National Guard?
Chyenne: “It was difficult in the beginning of our relationship, because I was stuck in Pennsylvania and he was stuck in North Carolina, but he was able to fly up and see me every month. Once I finally moved to North Carolina, it was still difficult because I had to drive back to Pennsylvania every month to go to drill, but now everything is perfectly smooth.”
At no matter what stage of the process, the decision and actions to enlist are powerful. We cross our hearts, full of American pride, and swear our allegiance to a flag of stars and stripes. The next time you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, remember the many spouses and family missing their loved ones serving.
Speaking to Ria after our interview, I told her she answered more than anyone else.
“There is just so much to say.”
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