Why We Married Before My Husband Left for Afghanistan

On the day of our wedding, I wasn't nervous at all. I painted my nails, shaved my legs and hung out around the house with my soon-to-be husband, Michael. When I was ready, I walked down the stairs and saw him waiting at the bottom, wearing a black suit that looked too big around the ankles and a nervous smile. The entire thing lasted eight minutes. All I remember is swaying back and forth nervously, crying a little (cautious not to smear my mascara), clicks and flashes going off from our moms' cameras behind us. We kissed and danced in the living room to Zac Brown Band's "Whatever It Is," like it was the most natural thing to do. As we toasted to our marriage, I don't ever remember being happier than I was in that moment. We couldn't believe that we pulled it off.

wedding

However, making the decision to get married after five weeks of being engaged wasn't simple.

When Michael got word of his impending deployment to Afghanistan, we knew we wanted to make it official. In September 2011, he proposed to me in a hotel room over Vietnamese food, during one of my visits to Fort Lewis, WA. I knew all along that we were going to get married right away, but I didn't tell anyone else because I was afraid they'd think we were crazy. The last thing I wanted to do was defend myself or my actions. 

Asking my mother for her blessing was one of my biggest fears. She's a strong and independent woman who raised me to be the same, so I was surprised when she embraced the idea of us getting married right away — and even suggested we have the ceremony in the house she was staying at in Virginia (I had mentioned our plans to go to City Hall in Brooklyn, but she swayed us after recounting a recent 60 Minutes episode that portrayed courthouse weddings as loveless, mini-nightmares.) 

Honestly though, I can’t say it was a no-brainer – spending your first year apart isn’t exactly how a storybook romance starts. We didn’t get to honeymoon somewhere tropical or move into our first place as newlyweds to build a home together. In fact, we hadn’t even lived in the same city since our senior year of college. But when you know, you know, and we definitely knew.

wedding rings

All doubts aside, I wanted to give Michael more than a verbal promise. Sometimes I hear people saying that a “piece of paper” shouldn’t define a couple’s love, or that marriage is nothing but paperwork. Before I did it myself, I almost agreed. Now I realize that swapping vows is the ultimate symbol of commitment, and in my case, it showed Michael that I would be there for him through thick and thin, even if we were thousands of miles apart.

That brings us to another obvious reason: the military tends to favor married soldiers. Now that I’m his wife, Michael receives a monthly stipend for living expenses, along with a food allowance. I have health insurance for the first time since college, and if anything happens to him while he’s deployed, I’ll be the first to know. That doesn’t mean it’s easy: being a military spouse means no matter how lonely or sad you might feel, you put on a brave face and a smile for your soldier to keep up his morale.

wedding

It’s been about seven months since we tied the knot, and I don’t regret a thing. Getting married has been one of the most gratifying decisions I’ve made, and I think Michael would agree. Sometimes you have to do things your own way, even if it is a bit untraditional. 

Tell us: How did you decide when to get married? What factors influenced your decision?

—Lisa Turner

lisa and michael
 

Lisa Turner is a real bride who is navigating the planning process with her friends and family while her groom, Michael Turner, is serving in Afghanistan. Already married last year, the high school sweethearts will have an official reception in January of 2013 in San Diego when he returns to the U.S. The party will take place in a clubhouse near the beach, complete with Mexican and vintage-inspired touches to celebrate their marriage in a fun and very California way.


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