On this Veterans Day, I want to thank my sailor, USN Retired, First Class Petty Officer, Gunnersmate, Affron Herring, and all military veterans for serving our country.
“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.”
If you would have told me I would one day marry a sailor and live this crazy military life, I wouldn't have believed you.
It was almost 20 years ago when I was in Hawaii on a national student exchange program from the University of Minnesota to the University of Hawaii Manoa. Upon arrival, I knew I was in love with the islands (as I had visited once before in 1993 with my friend Tara), but I had no intentions of falling in love at 22 years old with a US Navy sailor.
When I entered the room of a local Honolulu church "singles ministry" in September of 1997, I couldn't help but notice the tall (dude, he's 6'5", you can't miss him!), dark and handsome man who happened to be in charge of the meeting that night. I sat in the back like a scared little puppy, not wanting to be noticed as "the new girl". I'm not sure if it was my midwest vibe (picture overalls, Birkenstock sandals and a thick Minnesota accent) or my short spikey blond hair that got his attention, but a certain somebody made sure I was on his team for the scavenger hunt activity that evening.
At the time, I had no idea he was in the Navy. So it wasn't the uniform that got me (and I am sucker for a man in uniform...I mean, who isn't??), it was his good looks and charm that won me over.
When the semester at UH was over in December, Affron was supposed to drive me to the airport for my flight back to Minnesota, but he was on an emergency duty at sea and wasn't able to bring me. And, this was long before everybody had cell phones so I didn't know he wasn't available to bring me until it was almost too late and I was moments away from missing my flight. I do believe that by us not being able to say goodbye, it made the "distance makes a heart grow fonder" thing real strong and being 5,000 miles apart really made us realize we had fallen in love.
Once back home in Minnesota, as I was sleeping off my jet-lag, my mom said "this man keeps calling the house phone and wondering if you are ok". Turns out "this man" would come visit me in February of 1998, would give me a ring and would marry me a few months later in August 1998, just a few days before he would be deployed to Afghanistan for six months.
When he returned from our first deployment as a married couple, he was required to do recruiting duty, and as luck would have it, Minneapolis/St. Paul was one of the location choices. So we lived in the Twin Cities where I was able to finish my college degree and he was a navy recruiter from 1999-2002.
Our daughter Raina was born in Minnesota in June of 2002 and one month later the Navy moved us to San Diego where Affron was stationed at Coronado. Unfortunately for us, he was then sent on a 10 month deployment and missed the entire first year of Raina's life.
As the ship pulled back into Coronado in September of 2003, he had a retirement ceremony on the ship, at the age of 37 with 20 years of service.
The Navy then moved us one last time back to Hawaii where we have lived every since.
This military life has been a crazy one, but one that I am so thankful for all the things it has given us. Now as a retired veteran, Affron is able to receive wonderful benefits from the Veterans Association, nearly free medical care for our family, access to reduced rates at military stores and the commissary and many other things.