By Cpl. Samantha H. Arrington , 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – Michael and Jessica Stedman recently celebrated their first anniversary. They also recently deployed to Afghanistan together.
“We never got to take a honeymoon,” said Jessica. She and her husband both serve as corporals in the Marine Corps. The couple deployed here with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 in May.
“So here we are in Afghanistan,” she added. “It has all the sand you could ever want and the sun always shines. The only thing is we just haven’t found the beaches yet.”
The Stedmans are not alone. They are one of three married couples currently deployed with the Camp Pendleton, Calif., based helicopter squadron.
“Everyday’s a good day because I get to see my husband and know that he’s alive and healthy,” said Jessica, a native of De Pere, Wis., and an airframes and hydraulics mechanic for the squadron. “I don’t have to worry about him as much, like I would be doing if I was home.”
But the Stedmans said they know statistics are against them. Historically, divorce rates for junior Marines are above the national average — higher still for dual-military couples. But Michael and Jessica said courses for engaged and newlywed Marines on life skills and relationship communication have helped them to overcome stresses that come with a young marriage, stresses compounded when both husband and wife serve overseas.
“I personally think being married to another Marine is the best situation for me,” said Michael, a helicopter mechanic with HMLA-267, and a native of Brunswick, Ga. “Jessica and I have been good friends for almost three years and just like any other relationship, I think you have to be good friends first.”
Cpl. Joshua and Sgt. Denise King, also with HMLA-267, are not only newlyweds, but also new parents. When the couple left California, they said son Julian, now 10-months old, was just learning to roll over.
“I’m sure he’ll be walking by the time we get back,” said Joshua, an intelligence analyst with HMLA-267. “For both of us the hardest part of this deployment is being away from him.”
Joshua, of Battle Ground, Wash., and Denise, a native of Los Angeles, explained family will take care of their son throughout their time in Afghanistan, with both the mother’s and father’s parents helping to create a stable environment for their son while they are away from home.
The couple said that hope for future stability, and the goal of providing a better future for their son, is why they deployed.
“I think that’s ultimately why we settled on both of us coming out here,” said Joshua. “We want to be able to give him the best life possible and a lot of times that means making sacrifices. It will all be worth it in the end.”
For another HMLA-267 couple, being married on deployment isn’t a new thing. Sgt. Krystal Palace-McClintock is married to fellow avionics technician, Sgt. Branden A. McClintock, a native of Tigard, Ore.
“This is our second deployment together and we make a great team. We know how to effectively deploy with each other; we’ve had a little experience with this,” said Krystal, a native of Kansas City, Mo. “We’ve been married a little over a year but we’ve been working together and good friends for more than three years.
“We met because we were working together,” Krystal added. “Now that we are married and working together, we keep it completely professional. When we are at work that’s what we are doing. We see each other as peers, as fellow Marines.”
Krystal and her husband, Branden, said they believe it’s important to separate personal and professional lives, especially while on deployment together.
“If you do your job and keep the mission in your mind, then there will be no problems,” said Branden. “We understand each other and are able to separate our personal and professional lives together. I’m not saying it doesn’t get difficult sometimes, but you have to do it.”
All three couples said being married in the U.S. and being deployed together to Afghanistan are entirely different. As a rule, couples aren’t allowed to live together in Afghanistan, even if they are married, and though husband and wife might work in the same squadron, they may work different shifts — limiting the time they are able to see each other. But the couples agreed communication is key to a healthy marriage, wherever the couple may be.
“Our relationship has grown in the time that we have been deployed. We have to communicate a lot more, not that we didn’t back in the states, but out here communication is all we have,” said Joshua King. “Having my wife out here is definitely a pro. It’s amazing being married to someone who knows everything that you do and understands the Marine Corps like you do.”
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