Couple cross paths despite separation
May 3, 2003
VICTORY CAMP, Iraq — U.S. Army Sgt. David Zarate, like most military personnel, misses his spouse while deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
But the 27-year-old Zarate’s situation is different than most. His wife, Sgt. Michelle Zarate, 24, is also deployed somewhere in Iraq.
Although the Zarates are in different battalions of the 22nd Signal Brigade out of Darmstadt, Germany, their paths cross often enough that it makes the separation a little less stressful.
“Sometimes it’s great,” David Zarate said.
For the past week, he has been at Victory Camp, establishing communications for various units at the former palace complex of Saddam Hussein, now a U.S. military headquarters. A month ago, the Zarates were both at Camp Virginia in Kuwait.
They were busy preparing to move into Iraq, but they did have time to spend together during the three weeks they shared at the camp.
“Basically, we were together for chow,” David Zarate said. “But we were able to talk about work, be supporting and plan together for what we’re going to do after this.”
Now that they’ve departed Camp Virginia — he is with the 440th Signal Battalion, and she is with the 32nd Signal Battalion — they still talk more frequently than other deployed couples.
If they know where the other will be, they can find them on the communications network and make a call. Zarate said they usually talk once a day, sometimes more.
“It can be a great pick-up,” he said.
But being so close does have its drawbacks. Zarate said sometimes he thinks the separation and being away from home would be easier to handle if he just knew he wouldn’t see his wife for six months, instead of knowing they’ll bump into each other occasionally.
“It sometimes hurts because you miss each other, and then seeing her reminds me of that,” he said.
Zarate said his wife left first and he helped her pack and wrap up loose ends. A few days after she left, he got the word he would leave.
“It’s much harder packing by yourself,” he said.
The Zarates met about four years ago while both were taking some additional military training. After they were married more than three years ago, the military spouses program ensured they would be assigned to nearby duty stations.
“It’s worked out pretty well,” Zarate said this week as he worked on an antenna, “but I can’t wait until we’re back home.”