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.
Before taking the plunge-- What you need to know about mil-to-mil marriage
Divorce rates in the military today, and in America collectively, are high. Nearly 50 percent of all marriages in America now end in divorce.
In this article, military couples give advice to younger troops who are either newlyweds, or who are considering marriage.
There are certain pressures for couples to get married in the military that aren't as present on the outside, such as impending permanent change of station (PCS) orders or deployments. When a couple faces a long-term separation, with the uncertainty of when (or if) they will see each other again, the pressure to get married often mounts. This in turn may cloud the couple's judgment and cause them to make a choice they may not otherwise have made.
This dynamic is especially common in "tech school marriages," where young service members brand new to military service become involved with another person while in technical training to learn their job. In order for them to avoid the long-term separation of being stationed apart, they decide that marriage is the only way.
Times of separation are a defining factor of military life, and that's when some couples would say trust and communication are more important than ever.
All relationships are built on trust-the trust that each spouse will get certain tasks accomplished; and the trust that each will be faithful and honest.
"Shelley and I had a marriage built on trust before either of us ever put the uniform on, and that's part of what has helped make our relationship work," said Mark Campbell. "I think people's basic values are put to the test in a mil-to-mil marriage, just like in any marriage, but perhaps in a unique way."
Shelley Campbell warned that while military marriages come with many opportunities, the challenges should also weigh into the decision to take a relationship to the next level of commitment.
"Mil-to-mil relationships are hard work, and the sacrifices are something to seriously consider," she said.
Ami Parrish would also advise any young military couple considering marriage to think carefully before making the commitment to both their spouse and their country.
"You have to make sure you talk about what you both want and discuss your future plans, because even something like where you want to live after the military, where you want to raise your kids-that kind of thing can be a game-changer for some people," she said. "I think it's really important to get that stuff out in the open before you get married, and also definitely make sure you're doing it for the right reasons."
Everything, including both spouses' military careers themselves, have to be laid out on the table, she said.
"Some people take their military careers one re-enlistment at a time," Ami Parrish said. "And that's fine when you're single. But you can't really do it that way when you have a family. If one or both spouses decide to separate, you really have to consider how it's going to affect your family."
She added that there are also certain strengths associated with troops marrying young.
"Let's say I married my high school sweetheart, and then joined the military," she said. "By doing it that way, we can learn the ropes together. On the other hand, if I were in for 10 years and married someone with no military affiliation or experience whatsoever, that may present an additional challenge to the relationship, because it becomes harder to relate. The civilian spouse, then, has to pick everything up from scratch."
Cynthia Gardner advised that spouses will probably need time to acclimate to each other's military commitments, while still remaining committed to one another.
"Younger troops entering that new chapter in their lives should know it definitely takes time to adjust," she said. "It's not something that's done very easily. It may take a year or two to adjust to each other's lifestyles and jobs."
She also warned that young service members considering marriage should check their motives and not make the commitment to marriage just for the extra money.
David Gardner agreed.
"You've got to be mature about it," he said. "You've got to be ready, and you've got to know the other person. It's not something you just flip a coin and decide to do. That's not setting yourself up for success."