AF contractors’ marriage navigates million miles

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
People are always looking for a spouse they can go the distance with, but how is this distance measured? How far do they really expect to go?  Well, for one North Carolina native couple, their marriage has navigated over a million miles and counting, with zero signs of slowing down. Side by side, the truck driving duo has traveled to nearly every Air Force base in the United States, delivering aircraft parts and repairable assets on time.

The pair began their journey approximately 15 years ago; the road eventually led them to Moody Air Force Base, Ga. For eight years, Henry and Joyce have taken the two-day, 900-mile journey from their home in N.C. shoulder-to-shoulder, countless times.

"Since we've been married I've driven two million miles," said Henry, who singlehandedly drove a million miles by himself prior to his wife joining him in the next million. "[Our marriage] has really gone the distance."

If this marriage wasn't collecting mileage on U.S. interstates, they could have driven around Earth 40 times and to the moon and back twice.

"We've had a lot of people look at us and say, 'you all have to love each other to be in that truck that long,'" said Joyce, who has worked with her husband for 15 years.  "[Working together] is a different kind of life ... because before, he had his job and I had mine. But we would [still] go and do things together when we had the opportunity. Now, even after we go home, we're still together.

"We're attached to this haul and we're married to the truck," said Joyce, who described guarding the freight like a mother hen. "When you put your name on the dotted line and you sign saying that you're going to protect that cargo, then you protect it with your life."

After 33 years of marriage, four children and four trucks, the close proximity of their day-to-day work environment hasn't changed the love between the two.

"Some people joke and say, 'I would have killed my husband if he was in there with me,'" said Henry. "But not us, it's a team operation at work and at home ... and we have never really been apart."

While some people may cringe at the thought of being cooped up in a truck with their spouse for days at a time, Henry and Joyce describe it as convenient and credit a friend for the opportunity.

"I used to walk in the house and she would walk out because she had a second shift job," said Henry. "But then we started running team hauls and a friend of ours said, 'Henry and Joyce you are together all of the time. You should get into [aircraft parts and repairable assets] because we need more people.'"

That's where it all started. Since that suggestion, they have hauled endless loads for every branch of the military. Whether they're notified days before about the haul or at a moment's notice, they treat every load as a top priority.

"When we're on the road and we've got a load, our main concern is getting the load there safely, securely and on time," said Joyce. "We don't mess around with anything else but getting from point A to point B as quickly and safely as possible."

Their punctuality and accountability caught the eye of the 23d Maintenance Group commander.

"Our military has always been a total effort," said Col. Jeffrey Decker, 23d MXG commander. "We always think that only GIs do it, but there are a lot of great civil service people and contractors who are part of our effort to make sure we're able to generate combat airpower," "For Henry and Joyce to do that for so many years with a smile on their face [is huge].

One morning before they left Moody, Decker coined them as his way to show his appreciation for what they do. Henry and Joyce supported the 23d MXG by delivering supplies to ensure their readiness prior to a deployment to Kandahar in 2011, where Decker was the maintenance group commander.

Gestures like this, coupled with all the different people they have met along the way, is what makes the job worth it for them.

"Most people look at us as just being old truck drivers and we really appreciated somebody going above and beyond to say they appreciate what we do," said Joyce. "People don't realize what we're doing ... and you don't get respect in a lot of places but we do on military installations."

The service provided by Henry and Joyce is not one that can be done by just anyone and the 23d MXG recognizes how they aid their mission.

"After almost 34 years of being in, [I know] that you have to have the support of the civilian populace, whether it's the taxes they pay or the jobs they do," said Decker, who believes the marriage duo is special. "They do something extremely important for the group's mission and they've been doing it for a long time."

With a million miles behind them, the twosome can't say they have another million in them, but the miles they have left they want to travel safely and most importantly together.