It's no secret that life in the military, while rewarding, is also challenging.
In this article, three military couples share what it's like to be 'married to the military.'
Ch. (Lt. Col.) Mark Campbell, JBAB senior installation chaplain, and Lt. Col. Shelley Campbell, health care integrator, 779th Medical Group at Joint Base Andrews, met in their hometown of Roseburg, Ore., where Chaplain Campbell's father was a pastor.
They will celebrate their 34th wedding anniversary this summer.
Mark Campbell began his military career in the Air Force Reserves in 1987 at 32 years old, and activated in 1992. Shelley Campbell began her Air Force career in 1995 at the age of 39. At that point, they had already been married for 17 years and had four children.
Tech. Sgt. Ami Parrish, JBAB Public Works Department unit education and training manager, met her husband, Army Sergeant 1st Class Brian Parrish, on a night out in Landstuhl, Germany. They began dating soon after they met in November 2004, and in January 2005, shortly after being sent on a one-year tour to Kuwait, Brian Parrish proposed.
"We knew we wanted to be together and we wanted to get married," Ami Parrish said. "You could definitely call it a whirlwind romance."
They said their vows in June 2006.
They have three children-Katie, 4; Brady, 1; and Shelby, 5 months.
Her husband is currently serving a one-year tour to Korea.
Senior Master Sgt. David Gardner, 744th Communications Squadron superintendent of operations and integration, and Master Sgt. Cynthia Gardner, 579th Medical Group first sergeant, met as Airmen at their first duty station at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom in 1993. They will mark their 17-year anniversary this month.
They have two children-Logan, 13, and Alyson, 8.
Wingmanship in the military and in marriage
Marriage could be defined as the act of witnessing another person's life.
For military couples, it can bring a whole new meaning to the concept of wingmanship. It can be the act of creating a shared history in service of our great nation.
"The wingman concept is all about supporting each other, and because we are mil-to-mil, we speak the same language," said David Gardner. "There is very little that I can't go home and tell my wife about that she won't understand, and the same goes for her. The wingman concept allows us to talk and help each other through different situations. The Air Force mantra of being a family isn't just a mantra, it's a way of life."
Cynthia Gardner agreed.
"There are many days that I leave work and I know that I have him to go home to and talk to," she said. "It's definitely just like having a wingman at home."
Couples say one of the greatest strengths of being in a mil-to-mil relationship is the ability to simply relate to one another in a big way. Mark Campbell calls it "working for the company."
"We both have PT, we both have our own schedules and commitments, we both have chains of command, we've both dealt with TDYs and deployments," he said. "We can better understand and relate to each other because of that."
Support and encouragement, aspects of the wingman concept, are also cornerstones of any marriage. In a mil-to-mil relationship, couples say these elements are especially important.
Mark Campbell discussed the support he and his wife show each other both personally and professionally. He said he's always been a "cheerleader" for his wife, who was just recently promoted to lieutenant colonel at the Museum of National Archives in D.C.
"I don't get salutes from her anymore," Mark Campbell joked. "But really, I would've been very sad if she hadn't received her promotion to lieutenant colonel. The value Shelley brings to the Air Force is just incredible."
The Campbells and the Gardners also credit the Air Force with giving their families the opportunity to live overseas while earning a dual income. The Campbells say the military helped their children to develop a work ethic and a sense of responsibility.
"We gelled as a family because we had to depend on each other," said Shelley Campbell. "It also helped that our kids were older then, because they could look out for each other if we had to be somewhere short-notice, and we wouldn't have to scramble to arrange someone to look after them."
Both couples also believe that the military lifestyle has helped make their children very flexible and open to new experiences.
"Now they can go into unknown situations and meld in, and I think the military lifestyle helps prepare people for that," said Mark Campbell.
David Gardner explained that while stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va., he and his wife pulled their two children out of public school on a Friday, they started at a new private school the following Monday, and "didn't skip a beat."
"To a lot of kids, that would've been detrimental, but they just accepted it and moved on," he said. "It's just part of their life. I think our children have a very good outlook on the highly mobile lifestyle of the military. I believe it's made them stronger."