A question of duty

by Georgie Bridger

Long distance relationships have so many connotations, but duty and cause are not often words that come to mind. You think your long-distance relationship is tough? Trying being a military spouse.

Kristen Gillman, a Chapman University sophomore psychology major, has been a military partner for almost four years.

Gillman met her now husband, Ryan Gillman, shortly after he enlisted in 2009. The next year, he joined the United States Marine Corps. During his second year of enlistment, he deployed to Afghanistan for around seven months. For nearly four years, the two have been separated by duty and cause. 

On March 23, 2013, they were happily married and on July 28, 2013, Kristen had their baby girl Olivia. Today, Ryan is currently stationed at 29 Palms, near Palm Springs, but they only get to reunite with each other on the weekends.

“It definitely was hard being pregnant and not being able to see him, but he always tried to support me in any way he could,” she said.

Gillman believes their success comes from knowing it takes a lot of hard work to meet the challenge.

“Being in a long distance relationship definitely has its ups and downs, but it makes my time with him so much more special. It makes me look forward to the weekends more than a normal person would," she said.

When Ryan was in boot camp and deployed to Afghanistan, they could only communicate through written letters. This made Kristen treasure modern technology.

“I hated waiting for one letter every couple weeks, but that was the only way we could communicate,” she said.

Technology has helped the two stay together through Ryan’s time in the Navy.  Kristen believes that communication is what makes a long distance relationships successful, and without modern technology, it would make communicating much harder to do.

“Modern technology does help our relationship work because we can call or text each other throughout the day. We can Facetime or Skype each other at any time, and that way I can see him and he can see me and our daughter," she said.

For nearly four years, the couple has been separated because of events outside their control due to his position.

After watching her cousin in the military, Johanna Albertson, a junior screen acting major, knows for a fact she could not be in a relationship with someone in uniform.

“I've watched his girlfriends come and go from the difficulties faced in a long distance relationship,” Albertson said.

Albertson gets an email from her cousin from time to time and is lucky to see him maybe once a year.  Without modern technology, she believes her family probably would not hear from him at all.

 “I know from my current relationship that knowing he was unsafe or not being aware of the next time I would see him would be unbearable,” Albertson said. “It takes an incredibly strong individual to be an army spouse or partner.”

Andrea Zavala, a senior communication studies major, sais there are a few words that have helped her and her fiancé survive a long distance relationship.

“If there were two words to that has allowed us to survive it all, they would be strength [my family] and having faith that eventually we will get to be together," Zavala said.

Zavala met fiancé Antonio Zacarias their sophomore year in high school, and after graduation they remained in contact. They have now been together for three years. For two yearsof those years, they have been separated while Zacarias is in the Navy.

“It’s been really hard,” Zavala said. “Most of our communication is through text.”

The couple’s relationship is based on trust and commitment. During Zacarias’ first weeks in boot camp, the couple's only connection was through written letters. In a lot of his letters, he needed reassurance that Zavala was willing to be there for him through it all.

“We are both in it 100 percent, and if he didn’t believe in us I don’t think we could make it through,” Zavala said.

Zacarias has another four years in the Navy and is going to resign in June for eight years total. Zavala will graduate this spring and has plans to attend graduate school.

“When we got engaged, we agreed that I would attend graduate school and afterwards I will go wherever I have to go,” Zavala said. “I want to go to grad school, but I’m waiting to plan it around where he will be.”

The military is a role of duty and cause, but being a military spouse very much has the same qualities. Hard work, teamwork and effort are essential in order to make these specific long distance relationships work.

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