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NEWS | Feb. 11, 2015

Valentines from miles away: Eustis couple celebrates Valentine's Day apart

By Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Four children, three deployments, two services and one love. It all adds up to life for one couple at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

U.S. Army Sgt. Justin Hughes, 510th Human Resource Company wheel vehicle mechanic, and his wife, Linda, have celebrated 14 anniversaries, birthdays and numerous holidays as a couple, often with oceans separating them. For these high school sweethearts, celebrating this Valentine's Day apart is nothing new, and this year is no exception, with Justin on deployment.

The couple met in 1996 in a high school drama class and have been together, one way or another ever since.

"We connected the moment we met," she said, remembering the day. "He has been my best friend ever since."

Linda said the two grew closer during the next four years, and decided to stay together when Justin joined the U.S. Navy.
The couple wed in 2000, after Hughes returned from Navy basic military training, but the military lifestyle was not new for Linda, whose parents also both served in the Navy. She said the military life was all she knew, but things were different in her new role.

"My parents were military, so I already knew that lifestyle, but being on the spouse side is different," said Linda. "I at least knew there would be times where I would be alone, and I knew [Justin] would miss things like holidays and things the children do."

Before Justin's four-year enlistment was complete, he was selected for personnel reductions and was informed he would no longer stay a Sailor.

"This was our first real hardship for our family," said Linda. "Trying to transition into the real world did not work out well."

In 2005, the Army offered a "blue to green" program; Justin decided to take advantage of this new opportunity, in the Army.

Linda and Justin experienced minor hardships, in their young marriage, while he was still a Sailor, such as their first Valentine's Day not spent together.

"I can remember the first Valentine's Day we had to spend apart," Linda recalled. "I went over to a friend's house with the kids and spent the evening with them. Even with the friend there, it was lonely."

Justin agreed, the first Valentine's Day apart was the hardest thing for both himself and his wife

For as long as she can remember, Linda said Justin would bring her red roses and chocolate on Valentine's Day, making each missed holiday difficult.

"If we are together for the holiday, I will usually cook us a nice dinner and either go to a movie or just take a nice long walk together," said Linda. "We like to take those kind of moments and spend them together."

Though showing love for someone who is separated by many miles may be difficult, Justin and Linda still find a way to express that love.

"We both show our love to one another the best we can while being away from each other," said Justin. "Missing Valentine's Day is tough for both of us."

She said her children, keeping busy with school activities and participating in the Family Readiness Group help her get through the long deployments and missed holidays.

Linda said the family feels lucky on this deployment.

"We are able to message him or video chat with him more often than other deployments," said Kristin, Justin and Linda's daughter. "I remember the ones where we could only video chat with him on random late nights. We would hear our mom talking to him and we would go into her room and talk to him too, we would all be so excited."

Even though she stays busy and is able to speak to her husband almost every day, there are still some down times for Linda.

"The nighttime is the worst, it's when the whole day settles and the loneliness sets in," said Linda. "It is then when it hits me that I don't have my partner-in-crime, my right-hand-man, but I have to remember he will be coming back eventually, and that helps."

Though the family sends gifts and packages for every missed holiday they will still combine all of the missed holidays into one big, "coming home," celebration.

This Valentine's Day, Linda plans to video chat with Justin, and spend the rest of the day with her children.

"I already know that Linda is my Valentine," said Justin. "She knows I am hers, and when I get home that will be our Valentine's Day."