by Valerie Gaff 

When I was 9, I knew exactly what my wedding should be like.  I wanted a beautiful white dress, with a train as long as Princess Diana’s.  There would be flowers everywhere, and I would be surrounded by my family and friends.  Since I already knew all the details, I just needed someone to marry. My prince charming! I had the idea that the Prince and I would live close to my family, so that we could continue to eat together and see each other every day.

Nine years later, I found my Prince Charming.  He swept me off my feet and my life has never been the same. Oh, and he wears an Air Force uniform.  We have lived in 3 countries, 5 military bases, and 9 different houses. And we’ve had many adventures together along the way.

Through this I have learned a lot …

I learned to tolerate the smell of jet fuel.  I didn’t say I liked it, but it was a comforting smell because it reminded me he was home.

I learned how to jazz up a window with a bed sheet and make it look like curtains, knowing the next house probably wouldn’t have the same size windows.

I learned that 15 minutes can be a long time when you are waiting for a plane to land that has a loved one on board who you haven’t seen in 6 months.  I also learned that 15 minutes can go by way too quickly when it’s the only time you can talk to your loved one on the phone that week.

I learned a home isn’t the house itself, but the people inside.

I learned that family doesn’t have to be blood related.

I learned to be flexible, and that the vacation that had been planned for 4 months could be changed in the blink of an eye.

I learned that I can’t hear The Star Spangled Banner or God Bless America without choking up.

I learned that after a long deployment, sick kids, car problems, and anything else that can go wrong— even when you don’t think you can muster up the strength to handle one more thing—God gives you the strength to carry on!

Yes, I have learned many things over my 18-year journey with my military Prince Charming.  Although it may not be how I imagined it when I was 9 years old, I would not trade a single day!