By Air Force Senior Airman Austin Harvill
633rd Air Base Wing
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va., Feb. 12, 2015 – Air Force Staff Sgt. Denise Brown remembers the day she flew from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, to Seattle, and the subsequent 10-hour plane ride to Japan.
It was Christmas week, and she would soon see her boyfriend, Johnny, for the first time since he moved earlier in 2014.
Brown, an F-15 and F-22 mission-capable supervisor for the 438th Supply Chain Operations Squadron here, said she knew the distance would make it hard to maintain their relationship, but that at no point did she regret her decision to stay together.
She was about to find out how much Johnny shared her sentiment.
A Christmas Proposal
"He proposed to me on Christmas Day, and of course, I said yes," Brown said. "From that point on, I knew we would make it, no matter the distance or the struggles we faced."
They married a week later. This year's Valentine's Day is the first one in their marriage, and they'll spend it apart, but they’ve found ways to not just bear their separation, but to grow from it.
"Whether preparing for a deployment, temporary duty, [permanent change of station] or anything else, there is nothing that can tear apart a solid relationship," she said. "It can be stressful to maintain the relationship while we are both on active duty, but it isn't impossible. Sometimes, it is even helpful."
Brown said she believes the need to keep their mental, spiritual, emotional and physical pillars strong lends to their success.
"We take time to schedule video calls, we have similar physical fitness goals, we maintain our work ethics, and we both exercise our spirituality," Brown said. "It isn't easy -- I won't lie -- but staying healthy individually makes our challenges more bearable."
Personal, Professional Lives Both Benefit
Air Force Senior Airman Johnny Brown, Sergeant Brown’s husband, is an F-15 crew chief for the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan. He said their lives as airmen and their marriage benefit each other.
"We understand our roles as airmen require us to stay strong, and it is a blessing to see that success positively impact our marriage," he said. "In turn, having a successful relationship also makes us [individually] stronger, so it is beneficial both ways."
Sergeant Brown said seeing the big picture is important in coping with separation from a loved one.
"I know the Air Force mission is important, and I know there will be more Valentine's Days to spend with him,” she said. “Understanding that life can be hard, accepting those curveballs and finding the positive aspects of a bad situation can make all the difference."
Perspective is a Choice
Sergeant Brown admits it’s easy to become lonely and frustrated with the separation, but she said her perspective ultimately is a choice.
"I choose not to have that attitude, and so can anyone else,” she said. “I don't think about how my husband is gone on Valentine's Day. “I am just grateful to have the best Valentine any one could ever ask for."
Sergeant Brown won't take a plane to see Airman Brown this Valentine’s Day. Due to the 13-hour time difference and his work shift, she may not even get to talk to him. But even though he is thousands of miles away, she said, she knows a quick prayer and a glance at the rings on her finger will put her Valentine right by her side.