Monday, February 10, 2014

When A Lawyer Fell for an Enlisted Guy

Jake and his unit rescued this puppy in Iraq.
So, on the one hand, can you blame me? I mean, look at the guy! And he saves puppies! But in all seriousness, since Valentine's Day is just around the corner, I wanted to take a moment and tell the unlikely tale of when a lawyer fell in love with an enlisted guy.

If you can believe it, this one actually does start out "Once upon a time in a far away land..."

I was traveling in the Philippines, working on a case for my longest-running client, the island Province of Marinduque. Yes, a Province in the Philippines is my oldest client. I've been working with the Province for eight years (since I was a baby lawyer!) on a case involving environmental damage done by mining practices on the island.

By 2007, I'd been traveling to the Philippines for a while, and I had built quite a few friendships there. Manila's is a transient culture, like so many international cities are now. New people join your group of friends for the week/month/whatever amount of time they are in country, then part ways, sometimes keeping in touch on Facebook, sometimes not. And that's where the story really starts.

It was a warm spring evening, and I was with four girlfriends having dinner at an outdoor tapas bar. We were in the center of the Greenbelt area of Makati City, which is almost always packed with people, especially in the evenings. Like the rest of Greenbelt, Cafe Havana was also packed. So no one was surprised when two strangers came and sat at our table. They were two guys, just looking for a place to grab dinner, recently in country. They were both nice. They were vague on the details of their work, although I had them pegged for some kind of military. One was a big flirt trying to grab every girl's attention, the other was quieter and content to take in the spectacle. 

I didn't really talk to either of them that night. I was happy spending time with friends I didn't see often. But they joined our little group for the week they were in Manila, and a few nights later the quiet guy started talking to me (the other one continued to flirt with everyone, eventually causing all manner of drama in that circle of girlfriends; but that's another story). The quiet guy and I quickly learned that we shared southern roots, Christian faith, similar upbringings, and a love of travel. 

We met in the tropics, so we married in the tropics.
So a couple of days later when we parted ways, it wasn't goodbye as it usually is with transient friends. It was the beginning of our lives as pen pals, a tradition we keep to this day. We started writing each other right away, and with every passing message we learned we had more and more in common. When I met him I knew he was special, but he won my heart with his words. Not with elegant, well-constructed phrases; Jake will be the first to tell you that writing is not his strong suit. But I could see his spirit on the page--strong but humble, confident and loving, a sense of humor but with a keen sense of the feelings of the people around him.

It wasn't until later that Jake confirmed he was military, and I learned he was enlisted. And Special Forces. I confess, I was only familiar with Green Berets because of the John Wayne movie before I met Jake. And I'd never imagined myself falling for any kind of soldier, let alone a guy who was "boots on the ground," constantly in harm's way! Ironically, Jake often says if he'd known I was a lawyer from the start things might have turned out a lot differently. Guess we both had our notions about who we were/weren't meant for. 

In a lot of ways, we couldn't be more opposite: I'm polished and he's rough around the edges (to say the least); he loves to rough it in the great outdoors, and I'd rather be catching the sights in a big city; the idea of a desk job makes him cringe, and I don't mind hours in front of the computer.

Pre-deployment family photos.
It's a lot of difference. But it's a lot of surface-level difference. I think the most important thing I learned from falling in love with an enlisted guy is to look past all the "what if," and "that's not really," and "but I had something else in mind" to the essential. At the very center, he is the best person I know. And there's no passing that up; you grab onto it, and you figure out the rest.

The reason is simple: you marry a person; the rest is just details. 

Fast-forward seven years and we are happily married with a beautiful three-year-old boy. Jake is now a Warrant Officer, having traded jumping out of helicopters for flying them. Right now, he's flying them in Afghanistan and we are counting the days until he gets home. Although "home" is a relative term for us, being a geobatch family. Maybe I should say instead he will be "safe and able to see us on the weekends." Either way, we can't wait!

Years later Jake and I still write each other letters. Honest-to-goodness, handwritten, add-a-postage-stamp letters. Sometimes when I'm really missing him, I will read back through old letters and smile at where life has taken us. 

I can imagine our kids doing the same years from now, and that makes me smile even more. I hope that reading our messages helps them remember when they're looking for their own "someone" to spend their lives with, that the most important thing is to find a heart that matches theirs.

26 comments:

  1. Oh Reda & Jake...it is indeed a beautiful love story...congrats for having each other with written notes/messages pasted that endures time & as you said, it so heart warming to read the past & to lean on that thing called "love".

    All the best wishes & did I see, Reda, you won the Military wife contest. I like your postings. Salute to Military & their spouses & children. Lots of sacrifices & love for country & country men. Come home safely. From: Thelma M. Santos, Marinduque Intl. Inc. Past President. & a native of Marinduque.

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  2. Thanks for sharing you love story, Reda. A beautiful love story and very timely for Valentines Day 2014. I know and have met you during our Marinduque International Meeting in LA...However, I do not know if you still remember me, but I am also an avid blogger, http://marinduqueawaitsyou.blogspot.com

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  3. Wow! He rescues puppies ánd he wears an uniform?! I totally get you falling in love with him.

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  4. OMG...your story gave me chills. How utterly romantic that you still write letters and OMG he saves puppies! Agh he gets a huge humanitarian award from me :) Great blog... thanks to the Sits girls for bringing us together :)

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  5. What a sweet, lovely letter that you opened up to us! I jumped ahead on the SITS girls group (I'm traveling Friday) and am glad I read this before Valentine's. It makes me think of my marriage and husband and how we used to write letters. Thanks for the memories, and inspiring me to create new ones with him. And continued safety with your husband and wishing you and your family the best. So happy to have met you!!
    xo ~kim & chloe @ popcosmo.com

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  6. This is such a beautiful love story... thank you so much for sharing! :) It's a wonderful thing to find your special someone- even, and maybe especially, if they're not quite what you imagined. Hope your family is brought together again soon!

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  7. Awwww what a cute post!!! And that puppy really is adorable!

    Yay for the SITS Girls for helping me find your blog!

    -Rebecca @ Love at First Book

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  8. So interesting reading about geobatch family lifestyle. Beautiful story and love the handwritten letters. Answered my questions "Who does that still!?" xo coming from SITS Girls

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  9. What a lovely story, thanks for sharing on Valentine's Day. I think it's beautiful that you still write real letters. I kind of miss them. Having travelled all my life too I used to write all the time but FB, blogging etc has taken over and I don't know when I last put pen to paper. #SITS

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  10. Oh such a nice love story and I love that you still write letters to each other. So nice to find you blog from SITS. Yes it is amazing how quickly the day will come when your child finds the love of their life. Blessings to you and thank you and your husband for serving our country!

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  11. What a wonderful love story. It made me smile. I think it is so romantic that you write letters to each other. My husband is not romantic in the least, so I don't have any love letters. But that's ok...as you said, you marry a person, the rest is just details. Thank you to your husband and your family for his service! Happy Valentine's Day!

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  12. What a beautiful story. I think hand written letters will always be more romantic then an email. I'm stopping by from SITS and I'm your newest follower. Happy V-Day.

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  13. Awe! Such a sweet story! What an awesome thing to sit down and read with a cup of coffee on Valentines morning :)

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  14. Beautiful love story and the perfect day for sharing it with us...thank you.

    Happy SITS Comment Love Friday!!!

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  15. What a beautiful story! Isn't it amazing how you can meet the love of your life halfway across the world?! My parents met in Afghanistan 45 years ago while they were in the Peace Corps. God has mysterious ways, huh? :)

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  16. Beautiful and amazing story. May you enjoy many happily ever afters. Poppin' by from the SITS Comment Love Tribe! xx

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  17. I love this love story. And I love that he won your heart with his words on paper and you still keep writing letters to each other.

    I've gotten a few snail mail letters recently. I need to carve out a time to sit down and reply to them!

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  18. Beautiful, wonderful, amazing!

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  19. Such a wonderful story! A perfect love story to read right after Valentine's Day! #SITSBlogging

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  20. My goodness what a story!!!!!!! Thank you to your family for your service to our country!

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  21. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for the service your family continues to give to our country! So glad I found your site through SITS.

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  22. THAT is what I call a real LOVE story! Enjoyed it so much!

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  23. Aww this is so sweet. I love hand written letters. I use to write my husband letters all the time when we were dating. I wish he did them too so I could have some to read. Those are the best. WE do have some emails though. I hope he's home soon.

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  24. Thank you for all the sacrifices your family makes for our country. I'm sure your love letters will be treasured for many years to come.

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