“I love the Air Force. I love everything the Air Force has given me, has given us,” C stated. “The Air Force has given me you, the ability to afford this apartment, that ring on your finger…so don’t ever say I don’t care about the Air Force.”
His stern eyes looked directly into mine. I looked downwards.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without the Air Force. I would have never met you.”
Guilt seeped into me. He was right. C enlisted while living near Los Angeles, California. Although his intentions were to see the world, directly after Tech School he received orders to station to Davis-Monthan Air Force base in Tucson, AZ, where he has been stationed for the past six years despite efforts to PCS elsewhere.
I met C a month after he returned to Tucson from his deployment to Afghanistan. It was my third month living in Tucson after I moved from Indiana back to Wisconsin then to Arizona to attend the University of Arizona for my Master’s in Art History. I was freshly graduated from college, a Tri Delta alumna, and a former division one tennis player. Life was easy–I studied, partied, and worked out. My voyage was a cross-country car trip with my parents–my dad’s car filled with my necessities for starting a new life in a new location alone.
When our lives collided, I knew he would be someone special, but I never knew the path I had chosen would take an expected curve.
“Mom, I should probably tell you, I am seeing someone new,” I told my mom shortly after C asked me to be his girlfriend the day before Valentine’s Day.
“What does he do?”
“He’s a military cop for the Air Force,” I replied
“WHAT? Shut up. You’re dating someone in the military?” I could hear the shock in her voice.
“Yup, I know. I’m shocked too. But he’s different. He’s like a unicorn.”
My mom stated, “What do you mean by that?”
“He’s very liberal–not the stereotypical religious conservative that typically joins.”
We became the epitome of opposites attract:
- Urban vs. Small Town
- West Coast vs. Midwest
- Exposed vs. Sheltered
- Street Smart vs. Book Smart
- Confrontational vs. Passive
- Introvert vs. Extrovert
- Military vs. Activist
- Physical vs. Intellectual
- Masculine vs. Feminine
- Blue Beret vs. Flower Crown
- Camo vs. Tie Dye
- Carnivore vs. Vegetarian
- Night vs. Day
- Black vs. White
It was only towards graduation that the reality of the Air Force lifestyle hit me.
How can I plan a future if we don’t even know when he will receive orders to retrain, PCS, or deploy?
We aren’t even married. The Air Force does not know I exist. I cannot PCS with him or even live on base. We cannot receive any of the benefits the Air Force provides to married couples even though our lifestyle is intertwined with each other as if we were married.
What do I do for a job? Tucson doesn’t have a lot of opportunities in my field that are hiring right now. How am I going to pay bills? I just bought a car so we could stop sharing, we have an apartment together now, I have my own insurance, and what about student loans?
When he proposed on July 4th, 2016, the Air Force complicated life even further.
How do we avoid a stereotypical military wedding at the courthouse? That isn’t us. But how can I plan a huge wedding a year in advanced when I don’t even know what post he is working tomorrow?
“Can you just try to look at the positives, Aubree, and stop being so negative,” C demanded.
The anger would eat me alive. I was frustrated and stressed at attempting to live like a civilian couple when the fact of the matter was we both weren’t civilians. He may shed his uniform after coming home, but it was not just a career, it was a lifestyle. It was now my lifestyle. C was just the unanticipated curve in the road.
Likewise, our careers weren’t in competition with each other. They were in need of each other.
The Air Force gave us a stable income, a home, an opportunity to see the world and travel, meet new people, and provided a pension and an education for C when he was ready to retire. It was my art museum career that was unstable, expensive, competitive, and low paying. C always supported my career and now I needed to do the same for him.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without the Air Force. I would have never met you,” C stated.
“And I couldn’t imagine my life without you,” I replied.