Embrace the Unknown: Let Life Surprise You

Imagine you reconnect with an old friend, and friendship turns to love. Love turns to marriage. You marry the love of your life, only to be separated a few months later. Imagine worrying about his/her safety as he/she is living in unstable territory, defending our county. You then discover you are having a baby.

Could you stay calm in a situation like this? Some people can.

Heather married her sweetheart, Joe, in 2010 and moved from her home in Jackson, Michigan to Kansas, where he was serving the U.S. Army. A few months later, he was deployed to Iraq, when Heather just discovered they were pregnant.

“I started dating Joe when he was in the Army, and I always knew it could happen, but it was still very hard to have our whole relationship move to Skype,” Heather said. “We set up dates and talked whenever we could. Sometimes, he would have to cancel because of his job, but we made it work.”

When Joe was deployed, Heather moved home to spend the remainder of her pregnancy in Michigan, surrounded by the love and support of family. Although Joe was in Iraq for a year-long deployment, he was allowed 15 days of leave, which he strategically took two weeks before their son was due to arrive.

“Joe was there right before Zain was born,” Heather said. “He saw the birth of our son, but then had to return to Iraq two days later.”

Several months later, Joe was finishing his deployment and was set to move back to Kansas, so Heather packed up her belongings, and with her 4-month-old newborn, made the journey from Michigan back to Kansas.

“I wanted to have everything settled in our home, so when he came back, we would be settled,” Heather said.

But, it wasn’t perfect or easy.

“We hadn’t lived together in over a year, and all of a sudden, we have newborn baby—a family of three!” She said.

Within a few months, they had adjusted to their new life and things were going well. Then, Joe got the call to move to Wiesbaden, Germany and live on base. They spent the next three years living 4000 miles away from home, but making new friends and traveling Europe, an opportunity they were both thrilled about.

“Being part of the Army has allowed us to serve our country and travel the world,” Heather said. “My son’s earliest memories are of exploring castles in Germany and visiting the Czech Republic, Austria, Belgium, France, and Amsterdam.”

The list of new experiences for Heather doesn’t just include travel, but also giving birth to her daughter, Zoë, in a foreign country. She described her birth in Germany as more relaxing than her experience in the U.S.

After 15 years in the Army, Heather’s husband retired and joined the National Guard. Now, their family of four calls Michigan Center home. Joe works as a security guard at the University of Michigan and as a trainer for the Military Police. Heather joined the Environmental Services Team (EVS) at Chelsea Retirement Community in 2014 as a part-time housekeeper. She worked her way up to full time in housekeeping and was recently promoted to Interim EVS Supervisor.

But, there’s still a chance Joe could be deployed again.

“I know it could happen again,” Heather said. “But it doesn’t bother me. I go with the flow, and not much gets to me. I know things can happen, but it’s not a surprise to me.”

Heather, Joe, Zain, and Zoë will always be a close, loving family, no matter what state (or country) they call home.