Ours is a unique military love story. My husband, Dustin, and I have known each other since I was a baby.
In fact, I met Dustin before I met my dad.
When I was born, Dad was on his first deployment with the VF-111 Sundowners on the USS Roosevelt.
Dustin's dad was in the same squadron and on the same deployment. Our moms were friends through the Navy Wives Club (as it was known then).
Until I was 4-years-old, Dustin and I lived down the street from each other.
One time, Dustin called me a baby for still carrying a blankey. To prove him wrong, I threw the blankey in the Smiley's trashcan. Later that night, Mom had to fish the blankey out of the trash so that I would go to sleep.
In 1980, my family was transferred from San Diego, Ca., to Va. Beach, Va. Dustin's family was transferred to Guam. We did not see each other again until 4th and 5th grade, when Dustin's family moved again and we attended the same elementary school for two years in Virginia.
Next, the Navy transferred Dustin's family to Washington, D.C., and for 10 years, I only saw Dustin in his family's yearly Christmas card.
In 1997, Dustin graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was passing through my hometown in Virginia on his way to flight school in Pensacola. He called, and before he asked me out on a date, asked, "Do you remember me from when we were kids?
I did. Here's how I remembered Dustin Smiley from the 4th and 5th grade:
And here's what he basically looked like (minus the wings, stripes and ribbons) when he showed up on my doorstep soon after that phone call:
We married in July 1999 in the Chapel of the Centurion at Ft. Monroe, Virginia. It was just six weeks after my college graduation (meaning, there have only been six weeks when I was not a Navy dependent). During those six weeks, I broke my leg. I considered this a clear sign that I'm meant to have a Military I.D. card.
At the Cubi Point Bar at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., there is a Sundowners squadron plaque on the wall that lists Dustin's dad and my dad one after the other. This is where it all began: