After Brandi Butler saw her future husband’s running stride during their military training sessions in San Angelo, Texas, she knew she had to date Jason.
“I just thought he was just a beautiful runner,” said Brandi, 29.
Brandi giggles at herself as she realizes how juvenile her reasoning may sound to others.
That was more than ten years ago. After training to be analysts in the United States Air Force and being deployed three times each to Iraq and Afghanistan, their military service brought Brandi and Jason to marriage.
Although they found comfort in having a partner in the military, Jason and Brandi spent long periods of time separated from one another.
“For the first almost two years we were married, either she was deployed, or I was deployed,” said Jason, 34. “I would be excited to come home and see her. But, it was also sad because I knew in a short amount of time, she would be leaving again.”
They would talk on the phone a few times a week to keep each other updated on their lives. It was almost as if they were dating again whenever the other spouse would return home because they were apart for so long.
“Overtime, since I had deployed so many times, it didn’t bother me at least after a while,” Brandi said. “Initially, when he had deployed out, and I hadn’t yet, I was really worried about him.”
Both Brandi and Jason spent time in Afghanistan and Iraq. While Jason never worried about the places to which Brandi was deployed, Brandi knew Jason’s location in Afghanistan was a smaller post that received rocket fire almost daily.
To keep Brandi calm, Jason would make jokes about it.
“I knew she was stressed out at home, taking care of the house, I didn’t want to give her anything else to worry about,” Jason said.
Jason and Brandi relied on each other the most when they were transitioning out of the military. They had similar struggles as they rejoined civilian life.
One of the hardest challenges, Jason said, was simply choosing a career path. Both Jason and Brandi joined the military young. Jason was 22 years old, and Brandi joined at age 17.
“When we decided to get out, we essentially had to learn a whole new culture,” Brandi said, who separated from the military when she was 23 years old. Jason left the military just before he turned 30 years old.
The military taught them skills, Brandi and Jason said, that could be valuable to any company. To help better their chances of finding a job, Brandi and Jason enrolled into graduate programs to help them learn the skills they may have missed while serving in the military.
“I think the biggest thing is just learning those hard skills,” Brandi said. “Being able to have those so that not only does a company know that it’s not a risk to hire you, but they also feel like you come with a wealth of these soft skills as well.”
Jason, who now works for Rare, said finding a company that valued his military experience was a priority for him during his job search.
“I would not have worked for a company that didn’t appreciate the military background and the military skills,” he said.
Through the obstacles of building a family and life after their military service, Jason and Brandi have stayed at each others’ sides for the last 11 years.
“He just has such a different viewpoint from anyone else I have ever met,” Brandi said. She gazes at Jason with an endearing look of love and attraction.
As they wait on their expected baby boy, Brandi and Jason reflect on what the military gave them. They chose to serve their country, and in return, they gained a life together.
“I met my wife there. I got my education through there,” Jason said. “The military is a big part of who I am.”