Monday, December 10, 2012

On Marrying Young: Military Life

It's been a while since I've had a new post in the "On Marrying Young" series and I'm excited to dust it off and and a wonderful new guest post. I love Caitlin's perspective of marrying young and military life, something I know very little about.  Enjoy!

In the military, it's not uncommon to see 18 year olds married, or 19 year olds married with kids.  It's something that, although rare in the civilian world, is accepted as part of life in the military world.  "Married young" is not a term that is used often, simply because for many, that's average.  In the south, where I grew up, it's definitely more common to get married young, but typically, that's right out of college (or around that age) as opposed to 18 or 19.  My husband, Ryan, and I were married when I was 21 and he was 26.  We had known one another for a couple of years and been engaged for 17 months when we said "I do."  I had just graduated from college with my Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Political Science 28 days prior.  He had graduated from the United States Air Force Academy 3 1/2 years prior.  I would venture to say we were more the norm of the officer world (as most officers meet their spouses in college). Still, I was young, relative to every person I went to high school with.  I believe I was the third in my class of 552 to be married.

January 15, 2011: The day I married my best friend.  Isn't he handsome?!

So many of our friends asked whether I was ready.  Didn't I want to live life before settling down?  I've never understood that mentality.  Why would I want to live life alone, when I can do the same things with my best friend by my side?  Marrying young meant that we got to be there for so many of each other's important days and "firsts": Ryan finding out what plane he'd fly, him receiving his wings, our first deployment, me receiving my BA, my first move out of Texas, my first legal drink.  Big and small, we've gotten to be there for one another for all of them.

Needless to say, when my now-husband asked my dad for permission to propose when I was barely 20, it was something that was not taken lightly by any in our family.  There are very, very few divorces, because none of us believe in it.  My grandparents have been married nearly 60 and 70 years; my aunts and uncles have been married 30+.  My parents, 25.  When we say our vows, we mean them.  We make it work, regardless.  Because I was raised in such a faith-based family, I knew exactly what I was getting into by agreeing to marry Ryan.

The day before Ryan received his wings, one of the proudest days of both of our lives
We did not, however, agree on that faith initially.  I was Methodist; he was Catholic.  Our experience with planning the wedding in the Catholic Church was not a good one, and it ended when I was referred to as the "wrong kind of Christian" by one of the people at the church who was supposed to be helping us coordinate everything.  Needless to say, that turned me off to the Catholic Church for a while, despite the fact that I knew that it was only one person.

The happy ending of our first deployment
Being married to Ryan (and, we half-joke, the Air Force) has stretched my horizons beyond anything I thought I would ever see.  Three days after our wedding, I moved with our dog, Moose, to the Seattle area to be with him (he had moved up a year and a half before).  Although I had always loved to travel, the thought of moving out of Texas had never actually crossed my mind.  This may seem bizarre to so many of you, but the truth is, Texans are pretty happy about being Texan and most of us don't see the point in leaving permanently.  We have pine trees in east Texas, beaches in south Texas, hills in central Texas, desert in west Texas, plains in north Texas, and mountains in far west Texas.  We have big cities, small towns, and everything in between.  So when I realized that marrying Ryan meant that I would have to move, it was no small decision (on top of the little matter of spending the rest of my life with him).

The truth is, though, that I truly believe God had a huge hand in our life.  He ensured that Ryan would be stationed somewhere that our relationship could continue to thrive while I finished my degree (no getting married or moving until that was done!), and He put it in my heart to be an Air Force wife.  As much as this life asks of me, and of our family, I wouldn't have it any other way.  This life requires that you trust God again and again, as Ryan flies all over the world to dangerous places.  You have to trust that God will bring him home safe each time, or you'll lose your mind.  More than that, though, I have met more incredible women through our squadrons and bases.  Women who encourage me to pray.  Women who encouraged me to check into RCIA when I thought I disagreed with everything the Catholic Church was about.  It was their prayer, as well as my husband's, that slowly softened my heart to the Church and allowed me to be open to what He was wanting for my life.  I am now working my way through RCIA, and hope to be a full-fledged member of the Church this Easter, shortly after the birth of our first baby.

I may have married young, but I feel that because I did, I have grown as a person more than I ever thought possible.  I did a lot of growing up in college.  I've done even more in the last couple of years, as I learn to be the wife and friend (and soon-to-be mother) that God wants me to be.  God put Ryan in my life when he did, I believe, so that I could continue the growth He started in me in college.  I do believe that you need a certain level of maturity before making that commitment.  By no means do I feel that age is the determiner of that readiness to commit your life to one person, but rather the state of your relationship, both with your spouse and God.

We both love getting to go back to Colorado Springs and the Academy.
Caitlin is a stay-at-home wife, puppy mama, and soon-to-be mama of a little boy.  She grew up all over Texas, but calls Austin home.  She got my degree from Texas State University (Eat 'em up, Cats!).  Her husband, Ryan, was a C-17 instructor pilot and is currently learning to be a T-6 instructor.  As a result, they have lived in Del Rio, TX, Altus, OK, and Tacoma, WA, and now reside in San Antonio, TX en route to Columbus, MS.  Caitlin blogs at The Gavina Family.

Please check out the other posts, including more great guest posts, in my On Marrying Young series.  


  1. are you planning on having your baby baptized during your Rite? Someone at our church did that a few years ago and it was so moving.

  2. I'm not, actually. We're going to do the baptism in Chicago, with my husband's family, whereas my Rite will be in Mississippi, where we'll be living. I would have LOVED for that to have worked out, though!

  3. Great Post! I love hearing stories of how God has orchestrated each detail of your life and I love young marrieds! (My hubs and I were 22.) Hope you and your family have a blessed life! And thanks Mandi for sharing Caitlin's story.

  4. Great post! And what a small world, they are heading to the Columbus AFB in the town where I went to college at Mississippi University for Women.

    Caitlin, please enjoy Columbus for me and say hello to the nice people at Annunciation!

  5. Enjoyed reading this. I am an AF spouse as well, though a missiles wife. We're now in our fourth hometown (after 3 years of marriage) too! We heard a lot of "aren't you young?" chitter-chatter before our marriage. The thing is, most of the people who came to us with that mindset had, themselves, a very "young" outlook on marriage. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I enjoyed this post, being a former military spouse myself. (Still married, but he's a civilian now.) You're right about "young" in the military being a different term. I always felt like a dinosaur since my husband and I didn't meet until we were both out of college! I've only seen pictures of my husband's commissioning, so sometimes I felt like I missed out on a bit. But I've seen some very strong marriages that started both young and older in the military lifestyle. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  7. Congrats on your marriage and your becoming Catholic. I'm so sorry that person at the church said something so rude. It is people like that that hurt the tender hearts of so many people. Many don't ever come back just because some idiot ran their mouth. The person thinks that is how all Catholics think. We LOVE you, and welcome you, and pray that your faith will guide and help you throughout your life. May your baby be healthy, and your marriage & faith be strong. God Bless.


I'd love to hear what you have to say! You can also contact me directly by emailing me at