Love and War: Two couples share thoughts on dual-military marriage
January 28, 2011
MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan - Marriage is hard. Ask any couple, no matter how long they've been married, and they'll tell you it takes work. Throw in long periods of separation and a war on top of that, and it becomes that much more difficult.
Such is the case for two dual-military couples in 10th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, who are currently deployed across Afghanistan.
Of the 130 dual-military couples in 1st BCT, 24 of them are in the BSB, and of that, three of them are officers holding command or leadership positions.
The first couple, Capts. Dave and Maria Gregory, are both company commanders in forward support companies in 10th Brigade Support Battalion.
Dave Gregory serves as commander of F Company, 10th BSB, in support of 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, while Maria Gregory has charge of G Company in support of 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment. Although they are in the same battalion, each is located at a different forward operating base.
Gregory, currently located at FOB Kunduz in northeast Afghanistan, met his wife Maria, currently located at FOB Griffin in northwest Afghanistan, during a land navigation course at Transportation Officer's Basic Course in Fort Eustis, Va., back in 2004.
They began dating in 2005 when they were both stationed at Fort Drum, where they were quickly separated because of opposite deployment schedules. During their courtship, the two Soldiers took their R and R leaves together whenever possible and spoke on the telephone or e-mailed each other as often as possible.
"I think the biggest challenge for me is being apart from Dave," Gregory said. "Dave and I were never in sync with each other's timeline, so whatever time we got to see each other, we made the best of it."
When she was home on R and R leave from her deployment with 3rd Brigade Combat Team in July 2009, the couple decided it was time to get married. They had a small ceremony with Family in Las Vegas.
When Maria Gregory redeployed to Fort Drum, she requested to be transferred to 1st Brigade, knowing they were getting ready to deploy again in January, so that the couple would be on the same deployment cycle.
They agree that knowing the ins and outs of each other's job is an advantage, especially with the plethora of acronyms the Army uses.
"Communication about a hard day at work would be even more frustrating if you had to explain the situation and all the acronyms to a nonmilitary spouse," Dave Gregory said. "It is nice to have a spouse (who) speaks the language too."
The Gregorys also agreed that finding time to spend together is probably the most difficult part of being a dual-military couple.
They celebrated their first anniversary July 4 at Camp Mike Spann, located in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, when they both had business to conduct. They were able to enjoy the day together, and they look forward to quality time when they redeploy.
Meanwhile, Capt. Blair Didomenico, who serves as a company executive officer in 10th BSB, is married to Capt. Joe Didomenico, an operational planner on the 1st Brigade Combat Team staff.
The Didomenicos met when they were both attending Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. Although they met in 2004 during her freshman year and became friends, they did not start dating until after he graduated in May of that year. They married three years later on May 26, 2007.
The couple started their lives together by being separated by schools, followed by subsequent deployments. But despite the separation, the couple enjoys knowing firsthand what the other one does for a job.
Having someone to share the whole military experience with is one of the biggest advantages, said Blair Didomenico, who is stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
"We both pretty much understand what the other is going through, and we can help one another through the many ups and downs," she said.
Didomenico said he thinks it funny that he can speak "Army" with his wife when they are at home.
"Sometimes we talk in acronyms while we are cooking dinner," he said. "And more often than not, when we choose to do things on our weekends, there is a clearly defined 'intent,' and a 'task' and 'purpose' that allows us to achieve our 'end state.'"
But as with anything, advantages don't come without challenges. Finding time to spend together and worrying about each other's safety are two of the couple's greatest struggles.
With Blair Didomenico away and running convoys in southern Afghanistan, her husband worries about her safety while he remains in northern Afghanistan at Camp Mike Spann.
Earlier in their deployment, a Hungarian Provincial Reconstruction Team soldier's wife was killed the day after he left to go home, when her convoy hit and improvised explosive device on its way to the airport. Didomenico said this "hit close to home" for him.
"It gives you an uneasy feeling knowing that this deployment is not over for you or your wife until you both have your feet back home," he said.
Of the three deployments the couple has endured to both Iraq and Afghanistan, this is the first that they resided in the same place, even if it was for a short time. The Didomenicos spent the first three months of their deployment at Camp Mike Spann located near Mazar-e-Sharif when she was serving as platoon leader for A Company, 10th BSB's Convoy Security Element.
"There is just very little time to spend together in a deployed environment," she said. "You almost struggle to get time together, and when you don't live together, that is another challenge. Eating meals and walking around the FOB together is great and all, but it's just not the way a married couple should have to spend their time together. It often made us wonder if it would be easier doing this apart from one another."
Overall, the couples agree that while being dual military has added challenges, it is not much different from any other marriage. All marriages have their high and low points, and how you communicate and work through them are key.
Didomenico, who had the unique experience of being the spouse at home during her husband's first deployment and being deployed at the same time as him and with him, said that keeping busy and reminding yourself that it is all temporary are the best ways to deal with the challenges.
She said the keys to staying together are "not forgetting what life is like when you're together, and communicating as much as you can, and just understanding the circumstances that you're both under."
Both couples take advantage of any chance they might get to spend together while they are deployed and look forward to their return home to Fort Drum in the coming weeks.
(1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office)