Newlyweds navigate tour in Iraq
Stars and Stripes June 13, 2007
ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq — Stephen and Tiffany Brock are spending their honeymoon year of marriage on the U.S. Army’s dime.
“An all-expenses paid honeymoon to the Middle East,” jokes Stephen, a private first class with Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery at Forward Operating Base Iskan south of Baghdad.
Stephen and Tiffany — who is also a private first class — were married in September before shipping out to Iraq. Because of available housing and support from their commanders, they are living and serving together at war.
They are lucky, they say, for the chance to share the same quarters and the long months away from Fort Richardson, Alaska, where they first met in June 2006.
But they also know that the first year of marriage is traditionally the hardest. These young newlyweds (Stephen is 20 and Tiffany, 19) face unique challenges. Their privacy consists of one room. Their jobs take both of them, separately, outside the wire.
Perhaps most stressful is the constant knowledge of each others’ movements as they perform their missions. Stephen, trained in light artillery, and Tiffany, a supply truck driver, can’t hide the danger of their jobs from each other. There’s no way to tell each other those white lies that often spare worry for loved ones.
“It’s not like a normal marriage,” said Tiffany, who transferred to Company E, 725th Support Battalion, at FOB Iskan to be with her husband.
“When he’s on mission, I sit here fidgeting,” she says. When the base’s Internet goes down, it usually means someone in the unit was hurt or killed. “I always get worried that it’s him.”
They met at Fort Richardson, and their first date last summer was a walk to a nearby park. They married in that park last September, in part so they could try to serve together during their 15-month deployment.
During the first 2½ months in Iraq they were apart and communication was hard. They would set up Internet dates, but mission schedules would conflict. The line in one Internet tent — where the time limit is 30 minutes per person — would move slower than another, so they would just miss chatting with each other.
By Christmas, however, they were living together. They’ve pushed their two single beds together to make a king-size mattress, complete with a gauzy awning and throw pillows. Lamps, a television and a small dresser make it seem, for a brief moment, that war is far away.
“This is our getaway,” Tiffany says. “We come in here, and we’re not in Iraq.”
It’s a mirage, they know. Their his-and-her individual body armor vests sit at the foot of the beds. The couple says they know some of their fellow soldiers are naturally jealous, and they try not to advertise their marriage or their living quarters. But Iskan is a relatively small base and most people already know.
The arrangement isn’t guaranteed, they say. Either one could get transferred to another base. There could be a housing shortage at Iskan, and they could be split up to make more room for other soldiers.
Their safety isn’t guaranteed, either, they know. If one of them is killed, the other would go home and have the option of never deploying again during his or her military career. “But that’s not going to happen,” Stephen says. “We don’t talk about that.”