Lee and Trent have been together 4 and a half adventurous years, meeting through a friend in San Diego the day after Valentine’s Day in 2008. Trent was deployed to Iraq during the summer of 2007 and the holiday season was approaching when their mutual friend Ben Gomez had sent out an email inviting Lee and other friends to a Tamale making party (a Tamalada) in honor of Trent. They were to bring gifts with them so that Ben could mail a care package off to Trent in time for Christmas. Trent’s picture was in the email and Lee knew when he saw it that he had to meet him. The following February Trent returned home and had been in town for several days when Lee got a text message from Ben asking him if he wanted to meet Trent. Lee said, “When I laid eyes on him I knew I had to make him smile and when he did there was no turning back.”
Trent is originally from Wichita Falls, Texas, and Lee is from San Antonio, Texas. Today they reside in San Diego, California, where Lee is an independent personal chef and Trent is a Corpsman in the Navy, who will retire in 6 months. They have already tested their relationship “medal” with 2 major deployments and additionally as parents of two children (A daughter named Riley who is 16 and son named Kai who is 12) who also live with their mother in New York.
Trent is an HM1 (FMF/SW) in the US Navy. Although he is very close to retiring, life remains unpredictable and inequitable to Lee, who supports him as his partner. Lee is not allowed base access, or cannot do the family shopping at the commissary or the NEX. In addition, Lee can’t pick his partner up from work like normal spouses can, because their union is not recognized thanks to DOMA and out-of-date DoD regulations.
Lee would like to live inside the system, but even the OMBUDSMAN program has shut its doors to him. Lee vents his frustration: “On Trent’s ‘Page 2’ I am listed as an important person in his life, but there is no legal obligation to honor that based on DOMA. Thankfully I have a great relationship with his parents and his children, but nothing in life is certain and without a legal way to protect our relationship those things are always subject to change. The biggest contention is the denial of basic benefits and services available to other spouses such as healthcare, education, and many other benefits that are not afforded to our home because of DOMA and out-of-date regulations, even though the President himself could change those out-of-date regulations through an executive order. In effect our home is subject to a ‘separate but equal’ mentality that is anything but.” They both feel that the LGBT community is a great asset to the military, and organizations like the OMBUDSMAN program would only flourish with new diversity and growth once incorporated.
As with all couples, stress is often exacerbated before a deployment. Lee says, “When the going gets tough, Trent and I have worked hard to keep communication open. We do not argue often, so when it happens it can feel a bit traumatic and very stressful. We both know that it’s something we can work through if we just take a second to catch our breaths and begin a dialogue. We also seek out couples and friends in general that are responsible for their own lives and have a purpose. We believe strongly in building our own local family by having many of the same friends to hang out with. This was a big reason we joined AMPA, to nurture that sense of community within us.”
For those military partners facing the stress of deployment, Lee suggests having the servicemember in the partnership find other AMPA LGBT servicemembers they are deployed with and share contact information in case of connection issues or technology blackouts. This helps ease the pain and fear of the military partner who may not have a way to call up the chain of command when they haven’t heard from their partner in days or weeks. This also helps the servicemember have someone to talk to who understands their unique challenges back home.