Courtney & LaToyia

Johnson 1Courtney and Sgt. LaToyia Johnson have been together for almost three years and were recently married on Valentine’s Day. They originally met online and are both from military families.  Courtney is from New Jersey and LaToyia is originally from the Lone Star State, Texas.

Sgt. LaToyia is an E5 in the US Army and is an 88M (Motor Transport Operator). Courtney is a Program Director at an adult learning center, as well as an Online Subject Matter Expert/ Course Facilitator.

Courtney finds many characteristics of her wife LaToyia inspiring. 

“Toyia has a determination about her that is so inspiring and she truly knows how to pass it along to everyone she meets. She never gives up, and always learns from her failures.  She builds upon success, and never lets any obstacle obstruct her from her goals.”

When Sgt. LaToyia was deployed to Afghanistan, the Johnson family relied upon their faith to help them through the rough times.  Courtney would go to church and take various notes from the sermon to give to LaToyia while she was away.  During this deployment, they found that constant communication was a necessity for them. 

Johnson 3“You must realize that both jobs are extremely difficult.  You have to realize that someone is waiting on, and relying on hearing your voice.”

They both could not be more happy and grateful for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and the demise of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).  This has allowed them to be who they are while serving their country.  However, they still would like to see equality across the entire nation.  Since the state of Virginia wouldn’t grant them the right to marry, they had to travel to Maryland.  This was a reminder to them that even with the repeal of DADT and DOMA, we still have many more obstacles to face before we reach full equality.

AMPA helped Courtney find a new network of support for her when LaToyia was deployed.  She wasn’t married, and had no legal connections in terms of support.  She was very pleased to see how encouraging AMPA was and now she can help other military spouses across the globe with the knowledge she learns daily. 

Johnson 4

Desiree & Megan

Megan and Desiree 1Desiree and Megan currently live in Clarksville, TN, where Desiree is assigned to Fort Campbell as a CW2, Electronics Missile Systems Maintenance Technician. While they are both currently serving on active duty, Megan, a Chaplain, has decided after 11 years of active service to transition into the Reserves so that they can focus on family and reduce the long separations of deployments and assignments at different duty locations. The longest they were located in one place together during their 4 years of dating was six months. Since their marriage on December 27, 2013, they are now finally enjoying being back together under one roof and are looking forward to starting a family in the near future.

The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was a major game changer in their lives.  As a Chaplain in particular, Megan was very closeted, especially seeing as very few endorsers allow for gay Chaplains. When the change in DADT occurred, Megan knew it was time to switch endorsements to a welcoming and affirming body so that she and Desiree could finally live open and authentic lives. While many Chaplains are still struggling with their faith and how to best deal with the repeal of DADT, Megan wants Soldiers to know that there are supportive Chaplains and faith groups available to LGBT service members and their families. 

AMPA has been a wonderful resource to connect them with other families.  It has served as a reminder that they are not alone and there are countless others striving for change and bettering the quality of life for other LGBT service members and families on a daily basis.

Megan feels beyond blessed that God saw fit to bring Desiree into her life.

Megan and Desiree 2“Desiree is hands down the most humble, hardworking, and self disciplined person I know. Desiree accomplishes whatever she puts her mind to and seeks no accolades or personal gain, ever. She genuinely loves to help others succeed and will give every last ounce to help someone in need without hesitation.  Desiree’s love for others is the most beautiful thing about her.”

Desiree said the quality she loves the most about Megan is how she makes every person, in any situation, feel like the most important person in the room. 

Megan loves to listen and has a way of getting people to share their stories by instantly making them feel safe.  Her focus is always on the other person and she often leaves conversations never having spoken a word about herself. She genuinely cares about other people and puts them first.”

Without sounding too cliché, they say the foundation to their relationship is truly their faith. The two things they try to incorporate into their relationship daily are praying with one another and lots of laughter. They try to keep the main things…well, the main things, and for them, that is to love God and love the people around them. 

Having experience with separation through both deployments and being assigned to different duty stations throughout their relationship, they believe the key to managing those long distance relationships is having honest communication and clear expectations. For them, it was also important to continue to have shared interests while separated, such as doing the same workout as each other, going to church, or finding a movie or TV series to watch. By doing these small things “together” while separated, it not only gave them some things to talk about, but it also enabled them to still feel connected to each other.

Kenneth & Jason

Jason and Kenny Wedding 2-2

Kenneth and Jason are both from the state of Maryland, and have been together for three years.  They met each other online, creating dating profiles at the behest of their friends.  They were recently married (this past September) and currently live right outside of Washington, DC, in Cheverly, MD.

A Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Kenneth is the Lead Chief Petty Officer in the J6 of the NATO Washington detachment, supporting IT projects at the NATO headquarters in Norfolk, VA.  As a civilian, Kenneth works as a Senior Systems Administrator at the Defense Intelligence Agency.  Jason is a graphic Designer at Board Source as well as a Pet Product Specialist at Metro Mutts in Washington, DC.

Jason and Kenny Tampa-2While they have lived in Maryland for the majority of their relationship, Jason was in charge of planning their wedding while Kenneth was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

One of Kenneth’s favorite characteristics about his husband is that Jason has the ability to remain calm in any situation.  They keep their relationship in a positive light by remembering all of the enjoyable activates they do together.

Kenneth said, “Between the repeal of DADT, the demise of DOMA, and the acceptance/recognition of our relationship by the Department of Defense and extension of benefits, our relationship feels closer to other married couples than we ever thought it could. We feel lucky — and thankful to those who have fought with us to have equal treatment and benefits.”

Jason and Kenny Khacki BallTo them, AMPA is a place where they collaborate and get support for the numerous challenges they face as a military family.  They can share stories and empathize with other families who share similar difficulties, all while getting answers to numerous questions.  Kenneth said AMPA is “a force toward equality that has a reputation for enacting change for military families.”

When asked to share what helped keep their relationship going while Kenneth was deployed, they said the key is being able to relax and forgive. “Think long and hard about what you say before you say it, especially if you’re upset.  It is hard to tell what the other is going through, so don’t risk a fight. You have to be thoughtful.”

Lauren & Savannah

photo 1Dual-military couple Lauren and Savannah Peters, met in San Diego, CA, and were legally married in Washington, DC, in August of 2012.  Together for 4 years, they have been through 2 deployments and 1 PCS move as a couple.  As a dual-military couple, they successfully requested to be co-located together at their current duty station in Virginia Beach, VA.  Lauren, a Navy Supply Officer, is originally from eastern North Carolina, while Savannah, a Surface Warfare Officer, is from northwest New Jersey.

Lauren said, “Because we are both active duty our biggest struggle was co-location and command acceptance.  Our commands are both supportive of our relationship and make each other feel comfortable at command functions.  We were both nervous about coming out at our current commands, but have both had an extremely positive reaction.”

Lauren and Savannah hope to have children in the future, but for now their energetic 3 year-old yellow Labrador named Moose, keeps them very busy.  They’ve also decided to both make the Navy a career. Although a dual 20-year career serving our nation while also raising a family may seem daunting, they have an amazing support system on both sides of their family which gives them strength and readiness for the challenges of what starting a family will bring.

photo 2Since joining AMPA, Lauren and Savannah feel that there is great opportunity to see other families just like their own.  “We all have similar issues and it is refreshing and inspiring to see other individuals fighting for our rights.”

When asked for any piece of advice, Lauren and Savannah agreed that having both been deployed and with the perspective of both sides of the deployment, it has been harder for the partner who is at home.  “Trust is obviously important in every relationship, but it will be tested to a new level once you spend 8 months or greater apart.”

They also agree that each partner needs to be aware of each other’s struggles.  The person at home needs to realize that their deployed loved one is likely extremely busy and stressed out, so its important to try and reduce what you can at home.  On the opposite side of things, the person deployed needs to realize that their loved one at home has taken on the responsibilities of running the home front while worrying about your well being.

“Deployments are tough but at the end of the day it will make your relationship stronger.”

photo 3When asked what is a quality or a characteristic about your partner that inspires, Lauren said, “I am inspired by Savannah’s creativity and determination, we both enjoy working on projects around the house.  Savannah is the creative one that comes up with great ideas and then we work together to bring the project to life.  Recently we built an outdoor kitchen and pergola, it took us 4 weekends to build from the ground up, and it was the biggest project we have taken on so far and turned out great.”

Savannah said, “Lauren inspires me to have a closer relationship with not only my family, but hers as well. I could have never imagined that getting married and starting a life with someone would feel so perfect. I would have to say growing up I had hoped to have a large family that always got together during holidays and family events. I can say now that her family has not only brought that aspect, but has included my own.”

Benjamin & Michael

1621694_10200806619242915_969744092_nAMPA is turning our Modern Military Family spotlight to the blooming love of Benjamin and Michael. Michael Settle, a Second Lieutenant in the US Army, is from Mays Landing, New Jersey, and his husband Benjamin Gemme is from Auburn, Massachusetts.

While Michael is currently a Field Artillery Officer for the Army, Benjamin also has active-duty experience as a Cryptologic Linguist. They first met at the campus of Norwich University located in Vermont and currently live in Lawton, near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. There, Michael has recently completed his specialty officer course and is slated to PCS to Grafenwoehr, Germany, later this summer. He has also been slotted for a specialty school to become a Joint Firing Officer and hopes to train in Fort Benning to become airborne qualified. Benjamin, in addition to having served on active duty, has previously worked in the finance department of an industrial company. He is now a service representative at Fort Still Credit Union.

Benjamin and Michael both strive to put forth an effort of 110% into all that they do.  Their ambition is to inspire one another into trying to excel in whatever they need to do.  When times are difficult, they both enjoying playing video games to relax and to bond with each other.  While their family now only consists of two people, they plan on adding a dog as a member once they move to Germany.  One day they do hope to have children, but for now they are enjoying friends, family, and traveling.

600929_10151642395977812_1303688360_nThe recent changes in federal law and Defense Department policy have benefited their family greatly, like through being able to file taxes jointly, access to healthcare, and much more. They were recently approved for a command sponsorship for Benjamin in order to PCS to their new duty station in Germany as a married couple and hope for a smooth, hassle-free move. Michael and Ben will become the first same-gender couple to be processed out of Fort Sill and will become one of the first same-gender couples to PCS to Germany as a family.

AMPA means a lot to Benjamin & Michael. Through AMPA, they can share their experiences of moving across the country with other members of the community, while offering advice and friendship to all who are involved.

While Michael has not yet been deployed, the two are not strangers to loving from afar as a large portion of their relationship has been long-distance.  Their advice to other couples who are dealing with such is to communicate.  They believe that this is the key to any successful relationship. They also believe couples should try to have as much fun as possible, even while oceans apart. Not finding a way to have fun will make your loved-one’s return seem like an eternity.

Ben Gemme 2

Jovan & Shauntel

Jovan and Shauntel 2Originally from Portsmouth, VA, and New London, CT, respectively, Jovan and Shauntel met through a combination of family and friends back in December 2009 and have been together ever since.  Married for a little over two months, they admit that they have been “glued to one another” since the day they met.

Currently living in Fairfax, VA, Jovan and Shauntel have been through 1 deployment together and 2 PCS moves and have been stationed at Ft Monroe, VA, Ft Bragg, NC, and their current duty station.   Currently, Shauntel is studying Business Management in the Bachelors program at Trident University and Jovan, a Sergeant First Class in the Army Reserves (on Active Duty since 2008), is a Program Manager and Division NCOIC at the Warrior Transition Command where she works with wounded, ill and injured soldiers, veterans and their families.  Jovan has served our nation for 16 1/2 years in the military.

Hoping to start a family in the next two years, Jovan and Shauntel have a 10-year-old miniature American Eskimo named Precious. “We do hope to conceive a child through artificial insemination over the next two years. Hopefully, Precious doesn’t act too possessive; she is not use to sharing us. Lol.”

Jovan and Shauntel are so happy since the changes in laws and policies (the repeal of DADT and the demise of DOMA).  Shauntel is able to participate in all spousal events and is happy to finally be recognized for her support.  Jovan said, “She is able to be treated equally and receive the same opportunities my heterosexual co-workers’ spouses receive, and she loves the fact that she can come and go on the base as she pleases.  Its great!”

Jovan and Shauntel love the fact that AMPA has created a space where they can feel comfortable interacting with other LGBT members, spouses, and supporters.

Here is what they have to say about each other:

“Shauntel is powerfully loyal.  She is so supportive and is on my side no matter what, ready to go to war with me and take on whatever obstacle life presents.”

Jovan and Shauntel 1“Jovan provides me with stability and security like no other. It doesn’t matter if I’m in between jobs, taking a break from school or taking a break from the world. I can always trust that my household will stand. If Jovan could wrap up the world and give it to me she would, but I accepted her hand in marriage instead.”

When it comes to deployments, Jovan and Shauntel’s advice to other couples is all about communication.  No matter what type you use, (phone calls, pictures, videos, etc) communication will be one of the only things that will get both through it and back into each others arms.

Eric & David

Perfect timing in introductions doesn’t always happen for many of our AMPA couples, but this couple is an example of how love can blossom more openly after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  Eric and David met while they were both stationed in Germany at Miesau Ammo Depot in the K-Town area. At the time, they were both in the same unit and company 212th CSH.

Together for two years now, Eric and David were married this past August 1st. They are both currently active duty in the US Army. Eric is a Specialist and David is a Sergeant. Both southern gentlemen, Eric is originally from Chattanooga, TN, while David is from Brownsville, TX.

Currently, they are both stationed at Ft. Bliss, TX, in El Paso. They have yet to see a deployment apart from one another, but realize the challenges and have resolved to utilize good open communication skills with each other in their everyday lives.

Eric is a 68W (Health Care Specialist/Medic) who was working in the 212th CSH previously in the ICU. Currently, he is one of the medics at the 1-6 Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, ensuring his soldiers health and medical files are up to date. David is a 68P (Radiology Specialist). He works in the Radiology Dept. at William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC).

This couple is a part of the first wave of gay and lesbian service members to get married after the repeal of DADT and the dismantling of DOMA.

“Recognition has helped us tremendously! We once were struggling to pay for a cheap one-bedroom duplex. We also have a mortgage from a home David bought a couple of years ago in his home town. Now, we no longer struggle and are able to make our bills and have extra to put into savings and retirement for the future.”

But life, as we know it, is not always a bed of roses, and there are still thorns that persist:

We cannot get full recognition in our current state of TX. I cannot change my name to my married name unless I get a court order. We also face the possibility that we could get kicked out if we were honest with our landlords. We have discussed with our prospected rental property managers the truth of our relationship and have not been met with any discrimination to this date. However, our current landlords do not know. We have to get additional protections to deal with our assets and interests if something were to happen to one of us here in TX and because David is still a resident of TX.

Eric found AMPA while looking for a support group that could assist them with questions and involved other couples who were facing similar challenges and celebrations. Through a friend’s Facebook page at Ft. Bliss, Eric was connected to AMPA and was able to find some answers.

The first day I posted a question, I had so many responses in less than 1 hour with the question I had posted. AMPA is not just a group of people, but a community separated by miles and miles from each other that are connected together like family. We assist each other and support new and upcoming families in the great times of change. When injustice happens to one of us it affects us all, and we all jump on the band wagon. It is my extended family that has been there for me and proven to be the one resource that will stand by military families like us.”

Eric and David enjoy a healthy and happy relationship together, and have plans to have a large family (3-5 kids)! Eric describes David as being “loyal, funny, loving, with determination and perseverance.” That has inspired Eric to speak up about their relationship to inspire others. Last year, Eric gave a speech in school on the topic of marriage equality and is interested in becoming a strong advocate for others.

When not at work, David and Eric unwind talking about their respective days, playing with their dogs, enjoy outside activities with friends, and love to travel. They make each other a priority, making sure they never go to bed without checking in with each other and talking through any potential stressors.

Brittney & Jacklyn

Brittney and Jacklyn (Who goes by “Jai”) met back in 2008, in Ft. Lee, VA, when they were in the same MOS (92m) and the same unit (54 QM Co.), but friendship was the first to bloom between them for a little while. They have known each other for five years, and been together for three years as a couple. They were just married in Connecticut this week.

When we met in March 2008 I was 4 months pregnant. Our relationship at that point was strictly platonic. We ended up being best friends instantly. She threw me a surprise baby shower and was there for my son’s birth. It wasn’t until 2 years later that we decided to come clean about how our feelings for each other had changed. We laughed and questioned each other about why we waited so long, and we both were afraid of ruining what was an amazing friendship.”

Brittney is a veteran from New Orleans, LA, and SSG Jacklyn Sosa is from Boston, MA. Presently, they live in Savannah, Georgia, where Jai is stationed at Hunter Army Air Field.

To say they have survived deployments as a new couple is an understatement. They decided to begin their relationship at the beginning of Jai’s year long deployment to Korea in October 2010. In December 2012, Jai deployed to Afghanistan, returning August of 2013.

During that time, Brittney had been holding down the fort, with their son Elias, who is now five. In the early years, they needed to keep a low profile, and this was particularly hard for Brittney, who was very open about being gay. Jai was more private about her business, and had concerns that she would be removed from the military. Fortunately, that is one area they are both breathing easier about now.

“…to finally have her bring me to functions as her fiancé and introduce me to coworkers outside of work as such because she’s not afraid of losing everything she’s worked for, is absolutely amazing. After being open about her relationship she hasn’t experienced any negative backlash from her unit.”

AMPA has been helpful in their transition by disseminating critical information about the implementation of new benefits and changes at a time when they were getting the run around at their base or by others not properly informed.

“AMPA allows us to receive information with no run around. As a couple going through this awesome next step in our lives, in a place where we don’t know any other couples who have been through it already, AMPA is that other couple that lets us know what should and should not be happening. AMPA is a blessing.”

Together, they have forged a strong bond, first in friendship, and then as a couple.

We were friends first, and I can still call her my best friend. Although Elias is not my own, it’s hard not to treat him like anything but my own. I’ve been a part of his life since day one, he looks more like me anyway….Seeing her as a mom showed me a more beautiful side of her. The fact that she’s able to take care of me, herself and Elias, makes our family complete.”

Brittney appreciates Jai’s heart, her genuine nature, and how she makes Brittney feel loved as if she were the only girl in the world. They both value open communication and their faith in prayer to get through areas they feel uncertain.

As for advice to the military spouse during deployment, they suggest being understanding of their partner’s surroundings, patience, and to be emotionally available.

Kyle & Noel

Noel and Kyle met in Cincinnati, Ohio, and have been together for five years. Kyle grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and Noel is from Walnut Creek, California. Currently living in Columbus, Ohio, the two have been through one deployment together.  Kyle is a CW3 with the Ohio Army National Guard, and they were legally married on May 25th in Washington, DC, at the Jefferson Memorial.

Kyle is a UH-60 Pilot, and Noel is a Brand Manager. While not ready for children just yet, they are parents to a wonderful cat named Rambo.

Thanks to the recent recognition of all military spouses, regardless of orientation, Noel was finally able to register for his military ID card and benefits. No longer needing to wait for someone to vouch for him at the security gate, this helps him greatly in his role as the Family Readiness Group Leader for his husband’s Army unit!

Living in a state that doesn’t recognize Kyle and Noel’s marriage has had its challenges.

“After we got married, I added Kyle as a spouse on our home insurance. I got a letter that they needed more information. After calling, I found out that since Ohio doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, I couldn’t add him as a spouse.”

Noel has found a good support system in AMPA:

“It’s so nice seeing everyone support each other. I like the exchange of information and the dialog AMPA members have with one another.”

Noel and Kyle are fortunate that both of their families have been supportive of them, and they credit the strength of their bond to the support they have received.

Noel appreciates Kyle’s focus and determination to keep moving forward. He also finds Kyle to be a great and loving husband.  To remain a strong couple, they utilize the communication tool set by talking through issues, no matter how tough the subject matter. While Kyle was deployed, the two kept in good stead by utilizing texts and video chat when available.

Elizabeth & Sarah

Liz and Sarah met at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, while sitting next to one another in sorority meetings. Having the same first letter in their last names paired these two up quite easily while lining up for classes, and love paired them up for over 6 years.  On July 15th, 2012, the two shared in a breathtaking commitment ceremony at Tree House Point in Seattle, and then they legally married on January 6th, 2013, at Wayside United Church of Christ.

Both originally from Texas, Liz and Sarah have been through one deployment to Afghanistan and recently PCS’d to New Orleans for Liz’s job. Liz is a CPT in the Army Nurse Corps, but has a special assignment for the next 2 years recruiting nurses and physicians for the Army. Sarah runs her own photography business called “Uniquely Normal Photography.”

Recently, they have both started the adoption process with Lifelong Adoptions, which is LGBT friendly, looking forward to the opportunity to be parents. With a new marriage and new life ahead of them, Sarah and Liz are grateful for their footprints in this moment of history.

“We are so excited about the repeal of DOMA, as Sarah is now recognized fully as my spouse and dependent. AMPA is a place full of people just like us that have been through unsupported deployments and discrimination and come out stronger for it. It’s a place now to celebrate with those same people.”

Liz appreciates Sarah’s faith in her and the combination of selflessness, loyalty, and easy going temperament which rounds out an awesome Army spouse. While Sarah works part time on her business, this decision allows the two of them to share more time with each other doing what they love doing. Recently, they discovered the sport of cycling as a great outdoor activity they could both be passionate about.

Liz reveals that her deployment to Afghanistan was quite a rough one for the two of them, but offers advice into how to get through it for newer spouses:

“My advice for anyone going through their first deployment: Be honest and open about your same sex spouse at home from the beginning, people can only be supportive if given the chance. Talk as often as you can. Spouses left at home, surround yourself with people, even when you feel like being alone.”