“’Daddy, are you going to die?’ That was the first thing our four-year-old son asked when we told him his dad was getting deployed. We had 28 days to get all of our affairs in order before Andrew set out on a plane to Colorado, then to Afghanistan. I cried for the first three days. We packed up our things, moved out of the house, put it up for rent, and moved into my parents’ basement with our two kids.
I never wanted Andrew to join the military. Although I appreciate the Armed Forces, I never wanted to do this to our family. He joined the day after he watched his dad board a plane to Iraq in 2007. He didn’t tell me. We were only dating at the time so I knew it wasn’t our decision to make. Still, I was angry. I knew marriage was on the horizon and that was a mighty big decision to make for the life of someone else. But what Andrew understands is that this purpose is far greater than me and far greater than our children.
Andrew and I first met in seventh grade. We had similar friends, but I hated him. I thought he was mean, the typical jock. He teased me and told me I walked funny. It wasn’t until our senior year of high school that those feelings started to change. His best friend started dating my best friend, so we were both dragged onto their dates. He had incredible curly hair, fitted Abercrombie tees, braces on his teeth, and muscles on his arms. That’s trouble for a 17-year-old girl.
We shared our first kiss August 2, 2004. I remember that date because it was my first kiss ever. In the early days, we would stay up until 3 a.m., talking and laughing. He’d come to my dance concerts and I’d cheer at his games. We fell in love.
Despite my hesitations with his joining the military, I just knew I had to spend my life with him – whatever that looked like.
We had a military wedding in May of 2010 and I rocked the role of Army Wife. I always signed up to help the Family Readiness Group, usually writing newsletters. At the time, neither one of us had a job but we rented out a 500 sq. ft. apartment with awful brown carpet. I had a new husband, new home, and new life. And we were ecstatic!
Because we got married relatively young, we never really talked much about children. He knew I didn’t want any and he’s always wanted two or three. The thought of diapers and the responsibility of someone else’s life just didn’t appeal to me. Why we still got married is beyond me! It took about three years into the marriage for me to change my mind. I remember watching him with his nieces and nephews and realized how much more I loved him when I saw how much he loved others. I looked at him one night and thought, ‘I have to have more of you.’ And now we have two beautiful little boys who are my world. One looks like me and the other little one got the crazy curls.
After we got married, Andrew got more heavily involved in coaching. He started coaching football then added basketball a couple years later. He chose teaching as his career because he loved the students and it worked better with his coaching schedule. He majored in History. Instead of getting his teaching certificate in college, he opted to take an alternate route that allowed him to teach for a few years before having to take the dreaded Praxis exam. Apparently, the History Praxis is more difficult to pass in the state of Utah and costs $120 each time you take it. $600 into the exams and a fast deadline approaching sure stressed me out.
If he couldn’t pass the test, he would be out of job. We had two young kids, a mortgage, and he had hopped around to three different schools. I finally sat him down and suggested he find a new career. I told him it wasn’t meant to be and that our family needed stability. He was amazing at a lot of different things and I didn’t see this dream of his coming true. It was a very difficult conversation but in the end, he stood his ground and told me no. He only had one more shot to pass the test and in Andrew-fashion, the result came the day before the deadline. He had finally passed! I’m glad he kept pushing through because he’s the only person I know whose job is also their passion. He loves to watch struggling students learn something and know he had a part in it. I think what makes him so successful in his military and coaching careers is that he’s passionate about the people and relationships he’s built. In serving others, he’s found happiness.
He comes home every night and tells me all the fun stories about his athletes and students. He has a great and uncommon outlook on these pubescent human beings. When most people think of teenage boys, you think entitled, smelly, disrespectful, and sexually-driven. But Andrew changed that for me. He genuinely cares about these boys. He asks them about their families, listens to their dating stories and offers advice when needed, which is pretty often. He always tells me that if you treat them with respect, they’ll do the same in return. It’s such a vulnerable time in their lives when things are changing quickly. Their options are endless but they’re still searching for themselves.
When Andrew got deployed again, he told me he was scheduled to return home five months early. The deployment was supposed to be ten months, but they were planning on pulling soldiers out and potentially shutting down the location he was stationed at. I was excited but if you know the military things are always changing. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and we never mentioned it to the boys.
It wasn’t until he was boarding a plane to the US that I got really excited! We told the boys we were going to the airport to pick up my sister. When they saw him coming down the stairs, they yelled, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ They ran towards him as he bent down to hug them. I felt pride, relief, joy and excitement. Our family would be together again.
We all stayed incognito for the weekend and it was amazing just to escape from the world. We were also planning to surprise his athletes on Monday morning, so we couldn’t risk being seen. Andrew had planned it all out with the administration. The students thought they were there to listen to a guest speaker. But we snuck in through the back and when he asked the speaker to come in, Andrew strutted into an enormous roar! The students jumped over tables and clung onto him almost knocking him to the ground. They were all emotional and I’m glad I caught it on camera.
I’ve always known my husband is an amazing man. I see how he is as a husband and how great he is as a father, but to see the amount of love and respect other people have for him as well just filled my heart with pride. He’s changed me too.
I always thought I was the mature, smart one in the relationship. That I’m more level-headed, scheduled. After all, I will take three weeks to pick out a good lip gloss because you have to do all the research and comparisons. But reflecting back on the past year has made me realized that, all along, Andrew sees the big picture. Most people don’t view the world like he does. To him, life is all about the relationships, experiences, and challenges we all face and overcome together.
When I saw danger, he saw an opportunity to defend our rights. When I feared poopy diapers and sleepless nights, he saw a chance to show his undying love. When I saw disrespectful teenagers, he wanted to guide them. And when I saw failure, he showed me resilience, determination, and the joy in serving others. I sure lucked out in having him by my side and I’m happy he’s finally home.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I may jump over some tables and cling onto my husband too. And this time, I will get him to the ground…”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tina Olson of Bountiful, Utah. You can follow her journey on her blog here and Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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