Hailing from Boston and White Plains, NY, Margaret and Susan have been together for four years, reconnecting in a VA hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts, where they both were employed. Margaret worked as a counselor in the Vocational Therapy program and Susan was employed as an Administrative Officer on a research team, where Susan is still employed.  Christmas Eve 2010 was a special reason to celebrate when the two became engage to be married, culminating in a ceremony in June. By the time of their first anniversary, Susan was already serving her country as an LDO for the Air Force in Afghanistan.

Lowell, Massachusetts has been “home” the past two years and the couple has rarely had many moments together during this time. Susan is normally a Reservist Captain out of the Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, MA. Just one week after returning from her annual tour, she was on a plane for her next deployment to Bagram, with plans to return in the fall. As for Margaret, she is presently pursuing her credentials to become an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. As life has been a bit too hectic for family planning, they have managed to give a loving home to two wonderful rescue dogs, “Lela” and “Checkers”.

Margaret and Susan followed every procedure and loophole to become married as a dedicated couple committed for life, although their marriage is not federally recognized. This discrepancy denies Margaret any eligibility for health insurance benefits from Susan’s two federal jobs. To make ends meet, Margaret works a part-time job in addition to her full-time studies, internship, and preparation for the ministry. Additionally, in the state of Massachusetts, there is a state mandate to carry independent health insurance, which runs Margaret $400 a month. There are also the very real concerns of notifications in the event of injury while Susan is deployed, or survivor benefits, that would be guaranteed to Margaret in a heterosexual marriage.

AMPA came into Margaret’s life soon after Susan’s deployment, where she was being re-introduced to the art of “cooking for one”. Through an OutServe Summit in D.C., she connected with AMPA president Stephen Peters. AMPA provided Margaret with a community who understood and empathized with her challenges and struggles as well as celebrations.

Susan and Margaret celebrate their strengths as a couple and a family, supporting one another in their chosen vocations that both serve a larger community above and beyond themselves. To build upon their commitment to each other they rely on open and honest communication, taking things one day at a time, and the ability to laugh, even in life’s most absurd and difficult moments.

Margaret admires her partner Susan for the ability to inspire others to “be true to their calling and follow their heart. She was the driving force behind me pursuing my lifelong calling to ministry. She inspires her Airmen to build themselves up, challenge themselves, and strive toward a successful and meaningful career. She has a contagious laugh and a beautiful smile, and she leads with care and compassion for those around her.”

When asked about deployment “survival strategies,” Margaret shares from her own experiences: “I have three major pieces of advice for anyone going through a deployment: communicate, be honest, and take care of yourselves.”

 She advises:

1. Journaling for yourself and your partner every day for the first couple of months of deployment. Then mailing that journal to your partner to share in your experiences and to get a deeper perspective of the others day to day living and concerns.

2. Know that the difficulties and experiences through a deployment are a journey for both of you. Be honest with yourself and to others around you if you are having a rough time.

3. Take care of yourselves. Time differences, different schedules, and long workdays can build up and result in a lack of sleep for both partners. Get your rest, exercise, and eat well. And make plans for a vacation when they return, even if it’s just a weekend getaway to reconnect.