MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Chasing after relationships, partying, and living out the dream of the single Marine is an exciting experience – the freedom of buying that first car, planning trips and taking vacations without responsibility for much more than a few friends. It’s like something out of a teenage fantasy.
For this Marine, however, single life is coming to a close as I prepare to get married.
My plans two years ago never included getting married, planning for marriage, or even the slightest inclination that marriage was anywhere in my near to immediate future. Now, here I am only months out from spending the rest of my life with another individual and finishing the chapter entitled “single years” in the book that is my life.
Together, we have a combined military knowledge of roughly three years, which doesn’t include anything involving deployment, permanent change of station, or anything particularly difficult in terms of strain on a relationship.
Despite this, we are determined to get married early next year to avoid conflictions with my schedule at the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and to maximize on the time we have available. With this in mind, we are still new to the Marine Corps and we are hopeful for our future, but uncertain.
We don’t express uncertainty about our relationship or abilities to stick it out in every situation. Rather, we express it toward the recognized challenges we face, but have no experience.
Fortunately, the Marine Corps has provided multiple tools that have assisted us as we begin the construction of the stable structure we want our marriage to be.
When I first notified my leadership at the MEU I was getting married, they asked challenging and difficult questions to help me realize the gravity of the commitment I am choosing. Initially, I felt overwhelmed by the questioning, but over time the purpose of the questions became clear. My leaders were expressing concern for my welfare and showing interest in my success.
They became accommodating, supportive, and began taking an active role in assisting me with my plans after they established an understanding of my plan, intentions, and goals for my marriage. This was only a small piece of the marriage puzzle.
My leadership advised me to meet with our unit chaplain, military family life counselor, and family readiness officer as part of my course of action. My fiancée managed to make the drive down to Camp Lejeune and we took an afternoon to meet with each of these individuals.
The assistance they provided, though specific, was exceptionally beneficial. The chaplain provided basic advice, gave us a book to study, and offered to conduct pre-marital counseling to help us get started.
The military family life counselor gave us her contact information, explained what she does, providing counseling for service members and their families, and afforded us some valuable time to discuss our plans.
The family readiness officer recorded my fiancée’s contact information and registered her with eMarine, a website that provides information via e-mail updates on the status of our unit and upcoming events and activities. She also gave us a family readiness guide book with a wealth of information including benefits, opportunities, and support for service members and their spouses.
All these resources just scraped the surface in terms of assistance the Marine Corps provided us.
Between the free financial advice and planning provided by the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, the legal documents and steps offered by the base legal office, and the educational opportunities conducted through the base education office, our marriage is already supported by more than we expected and we’re still months out from our wedding.
The Marine Corps has definitely given us more than we would otherwise have outside the military, and provided us with some support beams to bolster our marriage’s structure.
Ultimately the fear of the uncertain still remains as there are many different obstacles to cross yet in my military career, but the uncertainties bear little to no difference than the general uncertainties that any face in the unforeseeable future. Fortunately the Marine Corps has provided us with all these tools. It’s now up to us to use them, to continue to explore all the avenues, and to make our marriage successful with the support we’ve received.