Military Wives Go the Extra Distance
February 16, 2007
TIKRIT, Iraq (Army News Service, Feb. 16, 2007) - Many women will do just about anything for their family, and most Soldiers will do whatever it takes to make the mission a success. For Soldiers who are wives, commitment is more than a wedding vow; it is a pledge to see a promise through, no matter where it takes them.
<b>Love at FOB SYKES</b>
Spc. Elaine Angelica Sandoval never dreamed she would celebrate her first wedding anniversary in a crowded dining facility in northern Iraq. But the 20-year-old Brawley, Calif., native and former cheerleader enjoyed every moment because sitting across from her was husband, Spc. Adam Sandoval.
The automated logistical specialist and her husband are spending the next year living and working at Forward Operating Base Sykes just south of the city of Tal Afar. Both are assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Before they were married, Adam was already serving in the military as a cavalry scout. In 2003 and 2004, he served in Iraq and was involved in the heavy fighting in Najaf and Fallujah.
During this time, the young couple tried to stay in touch, but Adam could not call home very often.
"I was really scared and did not understand the Army before. He would call at different times and so I thought he was lying about what he was doing," she said.
Before his tour in Iraq was over, Elaine made the decision to join the military. She broke the news to Adam over the phone.
"I enlisted in November 2004, right out of high school. When I told him he did not like it," she said.
After the shock of the news wore off, Adam did what any Soldier does for his buddy: he gave her advice and shared his knowledge and experience.
Like so many family members who believe they are serving vicariously through their military spouse, Elaine assumed she was prepared for her service commitment.
"But I realized I did not know what the military was really like - not like I do now that I am in the Army," she said.
Elaine talked about the long hours and the hectic schedules and the rules and regulations that to her did not make much sense, but as a Soldier she had to follow. She said that even making time to spend with Adam was challenging.
After she graduated from training, the young couple was able to get stationed in Hawaii after Adam reenlisted for his fiancAfA's first duty assignment. They later married on the beach in October 2005. Today the only sand the dual military couple walks along side-by-side is the sand of Iraq's Nineveh province.
Elaine believes serving alongside her husband has strengthened their marriage.
"Now that I am in the army and serving in Iraq, I understand a lot more of what he was and is going through with his career and during this and his last deployments," she said.
During this deployment, Adam is the squadron commander's driver. That job, among other duties inherent to the position, requires that he leave the safety of the base almost everyday. Those types of missions still worry Elaine.
"I have not gotten used to it, but I don't think about him out there, otherwise I will drive myself crazy," she said.
Having her husband by her side has affected her job performance.
"I do a better job out here because I know that I will see him if he is not out on a mission," she said.
Even though the newlyweds can spend their meals together, unit policy dictates they will not share their nights together. Under their commander's policy, Soldiers of the opposite sex will not live together, married or not.
"We are blessed to be together. A lot of other couples are out here and are apart," she said.
As for their future, Elaine said that for now they are concentrating on their financial future and planning for a family.
<b>Love in FOB MAREZ</b>
When Spc. Johnnette Smith joined the military three years ago, she was 19-years-old and a mother of two.
"I joined the Army to support my children," she said. "When I did, I realized that I would have to leave my family back in Augusta, Ga., until I could be reunited with my children."
The single mother said she enlisted to earn money for college and to provide a better future for her family.
Though she had hoped to reunite with her children after completing her initial training as information systems operator and analyst, Johnnette's first duty stationed was an unaccompanied one-year tour at Camp Walker, Taegu, Korea.
It was there in foreign country she met and married her husband, Sgt. Andre Smith. Soon after their wedding, Johnnette learned she was pregnant with her third child, Arianna.
After their tour in Korea, the couple was stationed in Hawaii with their children until both were deployed to Iraq at the end of 2006. Currently the Soldiers are assigned to Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, operating at FOB Marez, just outside of Mosul.
Johnnette, now 21, is happy she is with her spouse and makes every effort to spend as much time with him as possible despite working in different jobs. Andre is a military policeman and most times his shift differs from her duty hours.
"When I see him I focus on him and our relationship and our family," Johnnette said.
When they're together, Johnnette said they talk about their children: A.J., 4, Angel, 3 and Arianna, almost a year old when the couple deployed in November. She says she is grateful to have her husband there to lean on when the separation from their children gets to be too much to handle.
"We try to talk to (the children) by webcam everyday," she said. "We share photos and even dance with them. When we hang up we both share a big sigh and quietly walk back to our room holding onto one another."
Johnnette said that being deployed together has strengthened her union with Andre. They talk about their future and children. But, they do not talk about the stress of their jobs, let themselves slip into compromising situations and or get caught up in the camp gossip.
"Being deployed together definitely had made our marriage strong. We have grown to trust and love one another even more. But more important we share an understanding civilians or non-deployed spouses may never find," Johnnette said.
Today more than 20,000 dual-military couples currently serve in the Army. Seventy-nine percent are in joint-domicile assignments. Hundreds are deployed together to different theaters of operation around the world.
(Staff Sgt. Samantha M. Stryker writes for the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)