Valentine’s Day is a special time of year for all of us, but it is a very special time of year for Melvin and Randy. This year, February 10th marked the 14th anniversary for them. The couple met when they were both stationed in North Carolina. Melvin was a Marine at New River Air Station with MALS 29 and Randy was a Naval Hospital Corpsman serving at Camp Lejeune with 2nd Marine Div. After meeting each other, they attended and graduated college together and even served in the same reserve units after leaving active duty. They had every intention of ending their military lives after college, but that isn’t where it ended. Randy had always wanted to become a Commissioned Officer and the two felt that it would be their best option. So after leaving active duty in 2000, Randy returned four years later to get his commission through Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA, graduating in January of 2005. He is now an Army Captain working as the operations officer at the DES at Fort Meade, Maryland. They have 8-10 more years of military life ahead of them, but after that Melvin gets to take the wheel. Randy plans on following wherever Melvin’s career takes them.

Melvin left active duty in 1999 and is now pursuing his Masters Degree in Health Communications. The medical field offers him the opportunity to be flexible in his career. Often times the spouse of a military soldier sacrifices a lot of his or her career to support the soldier they serve along with. If the couple had a crystal ball, Melvin believes he would have chosen a nursing degree that would allow for more flexibility to be mobile with the numerous PCS moves they have endured together.  They have learned to overcome all that life inside and outside of the military has to throw at them. While they’d like to become parents someday and provide a child a stable enjoyable life with culture that expands borders and even continents, for now its Catonsville, Maryland, that they call home, with their two dogs, a Schnauzer-Terrier mix named Spartacus and a Doberman Pinscher named Apollo.

Melvin is from Jacksonville, Florida, and Randy is from Booneville, Arkansas. They have been through five PCS moves together and one combat tour. Randy was deployed to Iraq as an MP platoon leader at FOB Warhorse and FOB Normandy. During this time, Randy helped to train Iraqi Police. If you asked his partner, Randy is strong willed like no other, even at the cost of being stubborn at times. He is giving beyond measure. His strong protective nature makes him want those around him to feel secure. Another thing that really shines about Randy is the pride and respect he has for his Soldiers and the respect they have for him in return. Randy feels Melvin’s ability to adapt to the drastic changes required of a military spouse without the resources that so many take for granted inspires him. He is resourceful and able to make friends in any situation.  Melvin is also one of the prime motivators for Randy; he constantly helps him to remain physically and emotionally fit, from weight training to spiritual awareness. Melvin ensures a good balance of healthy living so the stresses of daily life are kept in check.

The couple learned about AMPA from a friend and have found that the group gives them the networking resource to help cope with the stresses of military life, since the Army does not recognize them as a family. Now that DADT is gone, Randy and Melvin hope that LGBT couples will have the outreach support that was not there before. There is a huge burden lifted off of their shoulders since the repeal of DADT, but a change in the current laws and regulations could really benefit this family. Melvin’s school options would open by allowing him the same in-state tuition benefits military dependents receive when their spouse is stationed from state to state.  They would also have more options for a stable and productive life when they retire from the military. It was always hard for the couple to move and tell all the “little white lies” they had to tell to stay together, but it goes deeper than that. At times, Melvin had to go without health benefits and the ease of mind offered to heterosexual couples in the Armed Forces.

In Melvin and Randy’s words: “AMPA helps the couple feel like they are part of a family when their beloved is off fighting for the freedoms and rights of all.” They have advice for AMPA members and other military couples going through their first deployments. Make friends that compliment your relationship. When you are missing them or just scared where they may be or what they are going through without you, having people that support you and your partner and are there when you need an ear really helps to make those days easier. Keep your communications skills strong and always find that time to enhance your relationship. The little things really do count. Letters, Skype, or even short phone calls make all the difference to keep that bond and romance strong. Be patient to understand the stresses each are faced with because of deployment.