'Mil-to-mil' relationships prove challenging, have benefits

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brigitte Brantley
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
In a marriage, individuals expect for their spouse to be one of the most important aspects, but that is not the case if both have made a commitment to serving their country through military service.

Married servicemembers not only balance the ups and downs of a relationship, but also the ins and outs of a career. This can prove to be even more challenging for Airmen who are married to another servicemember.

One Moody couple who met in the dormitories here are proof that 'mil-to-mil' marriages can work. Staff Sgt. Joshua Kelly, 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron electrical power production craftsman, and Staff Sgt. Shonda Kelly, 23rd Fighter Group knowledge operator, have been married for five years.

"I definitely enjoy being part of a 'mil-to-mil' relationship, but time spent away from each other can be challenging," said Joshua. "We've had our fair share of deployments and at one point we were separated for a nine-month period. Being away from my wife and daughter was tough."

Deployment rotations account for a large portion of the time couples are forced to be separated from one another, but there are other reasons why many couples are split up.

"My husband, Bryan, and I have been apart since October 2008 and only get to see each other every two to three months," said 2nd Lt. Chelsey Garrison, 23rd Wing Public Affairs deputy chief. "He is currently stationed at Vance Air Force Base, Okla., as part of his training to become a pilot, so the times we visit each other are during a three-or four-day weekend."

Being separated from your spouse can put a huge strain on a relationship; however these individuals have developed ways to keep their relationships strong through good communication with each other.

"When you are deployed, you adopt a different state of mind- if you are distracted by things happening back at home, you could lose focus on the deployed mission," said Shonda. "You concentrate more on your deployed job and put the personal life you have back home somewhat on hold. When one of us is deployed, we only talk a handful of times on the phone.

"Just hearing my husband's voice just seemed to make it even harder to be apart," she said. "Instead of talking as often as we could, e-mail served as the most important way we kept touch with what was going on both at the deployed location and back home."

Although the Kelly's plan during deployments didn't make use of the phone as the main way of keeping in touch, it is what Chelsey and her husband prefer.

"My husband's training schedule can be exhausting, but we try to call each other nearly every night," she said. "I know he is stressed from the environment he's in and that he just needs to focus on getting through it, so we both try to keep our home lives separate from our work lives. Because of his schedule and mine, some days all we have time to say is, 'I hope your day was good and I love you,' but at least it's something."

For the Kelly's, being able to talk about work and understand what the other is going through is a benefit they say of being a 'mil-to-mil' couple.

"Being married to somebody who works in the same environment definitely has its perks," said Joshua. "There are certain things a civilian spouse might not understand. Along with being able to discuss our day-to-day activities using acronyms and other military language, we can bounce ideas off each other and what we would do in certain situations."

Although distance can make celebrating meaningful occasion together more difficult, it can be overcome.

"We have been lucky enough not to miss out on a single Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday," said Chelsey. "We've missed out on other important dates but it is the sacrifice we must make in order for us to get where we want to be in both our careers and our life," she added. "Of course being in a 'mil-to-mil' marriage is not always easy and at times it can be very difficult, but we understand each other's situation and we work to make our relationship successful."