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thedrifter
04-09-07, 09:50 AM
Husband, wife serve in different areas of Iraq
By Ken Keufel - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Apr 9, 2007 7:15:01 EDT

WALKERTOWN, N.C. — Michael Martin of Walkertown and his wife, Christina, want all the things most married couples take for granted, things like living under the same roof, putting down roots and starting a family.

But they'll have to wait months before they can pursue them. That's because both of them are in the Army, and each has been serving in a different part of Iraq. Michael, 29, is a tank commander in Ramadi. Christina, 25, is a medical-services officer in Baghdad.

The Martins, who also served for several months in Iraq in 2004, will likely leave Iraq by late August. Christina grew up in a lot of places because her father was a career military man stationed in different places all over the world. She met Michael in 2002 when they were both in ROTC training at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. They married the following year.

“I have seen both types of couples, those that are actually allowed to live together and those like [us],'' she said.

Sharlene Martin, Michael's mother, said she feels the military does what it can to accommodate married couples who've enlisted in the service, noting that Michael and Christina lived in an apartment when the two were stationed in Germany.

The two saw each other daily unless, as both Michael and Christina said, training separated them for anywhere from a week to a month. Sharlene said that Michael requested — and received — a transfer to Christina's company.

The idea was for the two to stay together and serve their tour at the same time. It didn't quite work out that way.

“They put you where they need you,'' Michael's mother said.

A world of war-related dangers lies between Ramadi and Baghdad. So reunions of the Martins are rare at best. They said they have seen each other only once since their current Iraq tour began last September.

The visit lasted just a couple of days. It came about when Christina hopped on a Black Hawk helicopter and flew to Ramadi to visit her husband. The trip, which had several stops, lasted a couple of hours.

“The truth is that numerous Black Hawks have been shot down in Baghdad, so there is a real threat there,'' Christina e-mailed. “But honestly, I was so excited to be going there, I didn't think about it.''

Michael seemed philosophical.

“Travel in Iraq is always dangerous, but so is almost everything else that we do here,'' he e-mailed. “You just accept the risks and do it anyway.''

That kind of stoicism seems to extend to everything Michael and Christina are doing. Both consider it an honor to serve. Michael, an executive officer, is responsible for several things, including 50 square miles of land and 3,000 Iraqis in the western part of the country.

He also manages his company commander's “property,'' which, from provisions to weapons, is worth more than $70 million. He said he is filling in for his company commander, who is now on rest and recuperation.

Christina, also an executive officer, works at medical facility where they treat “anything from the common cold to bilateral leg amputation from an [improvised explosive device] blast,'' she said.

The Martins are also doing their best to keep alive, to keep those around them alive and to cope with the loss of soldiers who have fallen in battle.

But the truth is that “they miss each other so much,'' Sharlene said.

And the truth is that keeping busy and exchanging e-mails in spare moments can only do so much to lessen the pain of separation, however aware military families are that it could happen.

“I wouldn't recommend this to anyone,'' Michael wrote. “It is extremely difficult, and can be overwhelming on the senses when you are in areas like this.

“Having strong friendships around you is very important,'' he said. “Without someone to talk to, it can get very lonely and overwhelming quickly.''

Michael said he is grateful for chaplains who double as counselors and who “can help you with any problem.''

And Christina turns to a great roommate, Lynn Gouthro, to “just talk about everything on my mind.''

Both Martins rely on the love and support of family and friends at home. If all goes as planned, the Martins will enjoy two weeks of R&R. After that, they'll likely end up at a base in the U.S.

Michael will remain in the military, his career, and take additional training. Christina will leave the military and plans to become a stay-at-home mom. For now, the Martins think their war-induced separation will have a positive effect on their marriage.

“We will be able to understand each other's experiences and be able to share stories for years to come,'' Christina e-mailed.

“I think it will only make [our marriage] stronger,'' Michael said. “Once you can survive something like this, you can survive anything.''

Ellie