Sondra-Kay Kneen – When “Home” went from being a place…to a person
Couple’s Love Song: “Heaven” by Kane Brown
I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard out of a recruiting office in Arvada, Colo., when I was 17-years-old. My first assignment out of basic training was a 378-foot Coast Guard cutter out of San Diego, Calif. Before I had turned 18, I was interdicting thousands of pounds of narcotics in the Pacific Ocean, pulling into different countries, spending my liberty calling my dad on a pay phone. It wasn’t long before I was stationed in Tampa, Fla., dealing with hurricanes, NFL players lost at sea earthquakes in Haiti and fatal oil spills in the Gulf. By the time I was 27, I had been stationed in San Francisco, New York and Miami where I advanced in the military enlisted ranks, assisted during Hurricane Sandi and some how managed to receive a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami. Then…at age 29, while stationed in San Pedro, Calif., the impossible happened. When I say impossible, I mean the IMPOSSIBLE! Because when you’re almost 30, and you have already come to the realization that the likelihood of a man falling so in love with you, he’ll give up his entire life to move wherever the U.S. Coast Guard sends you, is one in a million.
So as I sat alone watching the Warriors play the Lakers at a bar in Long Beach, a young man approached the bar with Kobe’s (the sneakers) on. I couldn’t help but to tease him, since the Warriors were up at that point. A few jabs at each other’s favorite players later, we had exchanged numbers. We soon went out on our first date and at this point I would like to say how we got to live happily ever after…but that whole military life I had been a part of since 2004 was still in full affect!
Immediately after our first date, I was sent to Seattle, Denver and Washington, D.C. A second date was not in our near future. However, by some miracle this guy was patient and persistent. I had finished with deployments and was finally home when HE invited me to an Angels (baseball) game. Here is that “ahhhh” moment where I get to say we never left each others side after that! It was endless days of laughter and genuine happiness.
But wait for it…
A year prior, I had applied for Officer Candidate School, a 17-week officer training program that if successfully completed, you transition from enlisted to officer. Just seven months after our first date, I received my acceptance letter. I was to report in a few months and say goodbye to this amazing man for 17-weeks. 17-weeks of no visitors, no phone calls, no way to know if he would be there when I got out.
To my surprise, days before I had to leave, we were on the most beautiful beach in Puerto Vallarta and as the sun set, he dropped down to one knee and asked me to marry him. I couldn’t believe it. I said yes…and then had to say goodbye.
Of all my deployments, that was the hardest 17-weeks of my life. I graduated November 21, 2017, a newly commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and a grateful fiancé. Today, we sit miles from the Gulf of Mexico, wondering how this Colorado girl and Cali boy are now stationed in a place where alligators are in your yard and our “city view” is now of a body of water they call a bayou.
But we still laugh at each other trying to adjust to our new life. While we figure out how to plan a wedding when my family is in Colorado, I have a brother in Iraq, a sister deployed aboard a ship and my fiancé’s family in California.