A Military Marriage

originally published July/August 2017

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 10.38.27 PMFirst Lieutenant Jacob Carpenter and his wife, Captain Becky Carpenter, are no strangers to the long-distance relationship. But they don’t let distance keep them from serving their country and each other to the fullest.

Jacob and Becky knew each other growing up in the Memphis area and became good friends in high school. In 2002, Jacob decided he wanted to try and take their relationship to the next level. “He asked me out the night before he was to be deployed,” Becky says. “He figured it was a win-win for him. Either he had a girlfriend when he left or he didn’t have to see me again if I said no.” Thankfully for him, she said yes.

Jacob was on active duty when they married in 2004. In 2010, Jacob left active duty to go to school full time. While earning his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology at Mississippi College, he was also teaching in their ROTC program. He then attended PA school through the military. Since 2015, he’s been working full time as a special forces medic. Becky received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Crichton College. In 2011, she and Jacob made the decision that Becky would also join the military. She works as an intelligence officer for the special forces.

Jacob and Becky’s mission is service, both in their careers and in their marriage. “We focus on serving others, our state, and our country together,” Becky says. They joke that they have a 3-person marriage: “It’s Jacob, me, and the army.”

With both spouses being moved around the country and overseas, time together is precious. The longest the Carpenters have gone without seeing each other is 13 months, but Becky says if you add up all the time she and Jacob have spent apart over the years, it’s half of their 13-year marriage. “We make it work,” she says. “It’s all about quality over quantity.” Becky adds that they make an effort to touch base every day, whether that’s a call, text, or email.

When they were dating in the early 2000s, Jacob would send Becky text messages that just said, “49.” After three months of the cryptic note, he explained that if you added up all the numbers it took to text “I love you,” it was 49. Becky said these simple reminders of love have been an integral part of their relationship.

The uncertainty that comes with being a service member can be stressful, but the Carpenters choose to remain joyful. “The only constant thing is change,” Becky says. “Our marriage has to be a priority.” When opportunities present themselves, they sit down and discuss them as a couple, talking out the pros and cons. That’s what they did when Becky joined the military and that’s what they continue to do in each phase of their careers.

But what ultimately keeps them going is their foundation in Christ. “It’s challenging,” Becky says. “But there’s a peace because we know we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.”

Becky says that it is important for them as a military couple, and for military spouses in general, to grow even while they are apart. “It’s not healthy to stay stagnant while the other is continuing to mature and develop. It’s been our goal to grow individually so that it’s also reflected in our marriage.” She says their relationship is based on encouraging each other to reach their full potential. “I wouldn’t be the soldier and the person I am if Jacob hadn’t pushed for that passion in me,” says Becky.

They serve in different ways, but they both have a heart for what they do. “Jacob has a passion for meeting people’s needs and explaining complicated medical concepts,” Becky says. “He loves the comradery of the community he works with.” As an intelligence officer, Becky directs teams to gather and process data that help determine what actions need to be taken. “I truly love working with a puzzle, putting raw data in a way that helps drive decisions.” Becky is the only woman in her unit, as well as the only woman in the state with active jump status.

Becky says she and Jacob don’t try to compete with each other. “We look at things differently,” she says. “But it’s broadened our views.” She adds that they have to be able to call each other out, while remaining constant supports. “I try to be his cheerleader.” They stay connected by working toward a common goal and are all about pushing each other to succeed. “We may not be physically together,” says Becky. “But goal setting helps us grow. It helps us move forward.”

One of the memories that sticks out the most in their marriage was in August 2008, when Becky received a phone call that Jacob had been injured. It was a terrifying experience, but Becky said they were able to grow closer together through it. She also saw the love of the military community, especially the Christians in the military. “Since we have no family in the Jackson area, the military is our family,” she says. It’s also helped her to “walk alongside other military couples.”

Becky’s advice for military spouses: “Understand what it takes to serve. A service member can’t be successful at their job if they don’t feel supported. One of the most dangerous things is for a service member to be distracted by issues happening at home. It doesn’t have to be happy all the time, but support is essential.” Becky adds she’s had to learn to trust the Lord with her husband. “When you know that God has a great plan, it’s easier to trust and go with the flow.”

Right now, Jacob is stationed in Kuwait, and by the time this article is published, Becky will be deployed to the same base. “It really worked out,” she says. The two will be stationed there until early next year and will get to spend some time together between their jobs. “It’s a new adventure,” Becky says. “It doesn’t fit the mold, but it’s our story. God has already given us some pretty cool opportunities to serve, and we are excited for what he has next.”

-Abigail Walker

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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