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Finding Home: Our Love Story

My husband is my safe harbor.

My source of eternal strength.

The man that still leaves me breathless after all these years.

I’ve never written about this and I probably shouldn’t, but here I am. Our love story is not traditional. We didn’t fall in love straight out of high school and ride off into the sunset like love drunk puppies. Finding each other was a hard journey. For Sam and I the road to discovering true love was paved with painful lessons and heartache.

The first time I met Sam I was being inducted into the Army National Guard and he was the one that placed my unit patch on my shoulder with a solid slug that left a bruise for weeks. Graduating from basic training and moving on to your unit is a memorable time in a young soldier‘s career and that day in particular was filled with pride for me. I wore that same unit patch until my final day wearing that uniform. I still keep it in a special place to this day. That’s not to say that this was the moment we fell in love. Far from it!!! Sergeant First Class DeFelice was easily one of the most intimidating soldiers to ever wear that uniform and promptly set the standard for his troops in an earnest voice with a stern brow. If you had told me then that I would marry that man one day I would have laughed you out my front door. He was rigid and uncompromising. Life certainly has a way of leading us down very unexpected roads.

Throughout our years of serving together mutual respect blossomed into friendship. We were like-minded people with the same sense of humor and a tendency towards sarcasm that people didn’t know how to respond to. Many a laugh was shared at the expense of our friends who had no clue what we were even saying. It pains me to remember the day I found out I was deploying to Afghanistan when I was pregnant with Mia. It was Sam who delivered that news to my platoon. I heard the conviction in his words as he rallied his troops to answer the call and any of us would follow him to the end of the we did.

By the time we were boots on ground in the middle of nowhere I was mid-divorce and my life back home was in tatters. I had enlisted in my early twenties, so I was a bit older than my fellow lower enlisted soldiers with more responsibilities back home. A husband who was angry with me for leaving. An infant who I hardly had a chance to get to know before I left. And I found myself on the other side of the world trying to understand why my family was falling apart with no one who could really understand what I was going through. Except Sam. He had also left a little girl back home waiting for him. It was the same little girl who had attended my baby shower and hid in my bedroom playing with my cat. The little girl with no front teeth who had pinned her daddy with his new rank at his promotion ceremony. The little girl who would one day become my oldest daughter.

It was Sam who could understand the guilt of being a parent leaving a child and the confusion that comes with needing desperately to fulfill your duties as a soldier and finding those duties often put you at odds with your family's needs. When weeks stretched on and I couldn’t reach my baby to hear her voice it was Sam who demanded I focus on the mission at hand. Who understood what he was asking of me and asked anyway. Who knew the pain of failing in a marriage and what that does to a child in the midst of it. It was this mutual understanding that somehow transformed from friendship into the unexpected later on down the line.

Have you ever had someone in your life for years and then one day you feel like you’re seeing them for the very first time? That’s how we fell in love. It wasn’t love at first sight. It was a true bearing of souls. The ugliness in you that you keep to yourself and hide from the world. We shared that with one another. Our hopes. Our fears. There wasn’t a time when we agreed to suddenly shed our masks and expose our true selves. It just felt so natural, like breathing, that this would be the person I would make myself vulnerable to after a lifetime of being a stone mason building up my walls. Falling in love with Sam wasn’t like falling because I was never scared. It was like soaring over a vast ocean and watching the possibility refracting off the water in beautiful portraits of what the future could hold. He didn’t take my walls down brick by brick. For him, they didn’t exist. He could see right through me.

Soldiers aren’t supposed to fall in love. That was never in the plan. A complete twist of fate threw us onto a path that neither of us could have ever anticipated. And yet there we were...our love for one another that was so completely undeniable was also completely the worst timing that has ever existed in the history of love stories. Having a relationship with another soldier is beyond taboo. It’s one of the very first things drilled into your head as a new recruit. Fraternization is a filthy word and the murmurs of such goings on are horrifying enough to make a soldier cringe. You just don’t do it. Period. It’s counter productive to fulfilling the mission and unnecessarily complicates the work environment. I knew this, but it was too late, there was no going back. There was no off switch for what I felt for him. There was no point in pretending like I could walk away because I simply couldn’t. And so I chose him.

We both burned for that decision. We burned the world down to be together and I’m sure the powers that be are hoping to read this and hear remorse in my words, but I don’t regret my decisions. I would choose him in any universe, in every reality, in each lifetime I would find Sam and I would choose him over and over again no matter what it cost me. Knowing his love for a moment is worth suffering a lifetime of judgement and I’d rather have that one moment than lead an entire life never knowing what true love felt like. The way it turns you upside down and inside out. The way it propels you to become the best version of yourself. The way I can sense the moment he walks into a room and every time it’s like the first time. When I look into Sam’s eyes and see the joy our daughters bring to his heart I know that we were meant to fight for each other and I have no regrets.

My husband is my home.

I could be anywhere in the world and I’d be home if he was by my side.

~ Nicole

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