Colonel Ginger Wallace and Kathy Knopf have been together almost 12 years. Currently, the couple lives in McLean, VA. They have been through five PCS moves and three deployments together, to include Ginger’s current year-long deployment in Afghanistan through April 2013.
Originally from Cadiz, Kentucky, and a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Ginger has served for twenty-two years. Kathy, originally from Fairfax, Virginia, is a government contractor for the intelligence community. They originally met through a mutual friend while Ginger was TDY to the northern Virginia area years ago. Kathy recalls that, “Ginger was actually working around the clock, so we had a couple of hit and misses in terms of meeting up, but finally got together for dinner!” Of course, when they began dating twelve years ago, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still in place. Today, even though DADT has been repealed, Kathy is still not recognized as a spouse, and Ginger remains “single” in the eyes of the Air Force. Due to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, Kathy and Ginger’s relationship remains invisible. “If DOMA were overturned,” Ginger tells AMPA, “we would be treated like other military couples. My next assignment is out in Monterey, and Kathy cannot come with me without having to worry about whether or not she’ll have a job, health insurance, etc. We do not have access to any of the benefits other military couples don’t even think about.”
Although couples feel this struggle nationwide, Ginger and Kathy are happy to find an organization that recognizes their relationship and their struggles. When asked what AMPA means to them, Ginger replied, “It means there is an organization that takes care of military partners/spouses in the absence of full military benefits. It is good to know that Kathy has an organization to turn to if she needs assistance/help while I’m in Afghanistan. It means there are organizations fighting for the federal benefits our partners/spouses deserve and to which they have a right.”
Ginger and Kathy have had many years to build their strong relationship. When asked about Kathy, Ginger says, “she has a huge heart. She is so smart and the best sounding board I’ve ever had. I’ve rarely made a personal or professional decision without her input. We have a mutual respect for each other and make each other better.” Of Ginger, Kathy says, “She treats everyone with respect. She is always positive, always sees the best in people, and always just ‘does the right thing’ – even when it’s difficult. She truly loves the Air Force and gives 110% every day to her job and the people with whom she works. She inspires me to try and do the same in my daily life.”
Currently pushing through their third deployment, Kathy and Ginger are experts at communication. “Kathy is better at it than I am but she makes me better,” says Ginger. “You have to really, really listen to your partner and do your best to see their point of view, even when you may not understand what they’re going through.” And Kathy says, “We’re also total opposites in terms of personality; Ginger is able to relax and stay in the moment and not worry about everything, whereas I’m a little neurotic and tend to worry about everything. She’s really good for me in that regard! We both absolutely love and respect each other and that’s what is important during tough times.” Kathy also loves that they’re always able to make each other laugh, even during the tough times. She said, “Ginger deployed to Iraq the day before Hurricane Katrina hit and we had literally just moved into a new house on the Gulf Coast…that was stressful!” But the key to a successful military relationship? Flexibility. “Vacations are going to be canceled; plans are going to change. I don’t like it, but I’ve learned to accept it –that’s the nature of military life.”