Meant to Be: A tale of military marriage

  • Published
  • By Samuel King Jr.
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs

For a pair of 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron Airmen here, what began with a social media friend request has turned into a true love connection.

Tech. Sgt. Gabriel Gil and his wife, Staff Sgt. Melissa Gil first met on a social media site in 2017. After months of calls and texts, the pair finally decided to meet in person in January 2018. The bonds they formed during that initial visit would sustain them through a long year of separations, relocations and changing plans.

When they first met, Gabriel was assigned to Eglin while Melissa was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. Melissa said she knew Gabriel was the one for her after dropping him off at the airport following their first meeting.

“I was going through a lot in my life at the time and being around him those few days was such a calming influence,” Melissa said with tears in her eyes. “He was a perfect gentleman. I could tell he would be a good protector and provider.”

The connection the two felt was so strong, they got engaged during their second encounter together in February, less than a month after their initial meeting.

“We just knew it was right, that we’d both found the right one,” said Melissa, an admitted extrovert about finding her balance in Gabriel, a self-described introvert.

Days after their engagement, Melissa received orders to a new assignment at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas. With no wedding date set, the new assignment would extend both the distance and time they would be apart.

Fearing their relationship would suffer with Melissa’s move, the two NCOs decided to forego a large wedding in favor of being together. On March 3, they married in a small ceremony in Washington, D.C. Plans for a dream wedding and honeymoon would have to wait.

“There was always going to be a wedding. The Air Force just put our plans on fast-forward,” Melissa said.

After many stressful calls and adjustments with the Air Force Personnel Center, Melissa’s orders changed and she was routed to Eglin to join her new spouse.
After the big emotional splash of their marriage, the physical ripples of the decision began to alter their lives. Melissa had about a month to pack up and close out her life in Maryland. Gabriel, a bachelor with a roommate at the time, moved twice to find the right place to begin life as a couple. They also had to explain to friends and family what just happened.

“Our families were very supportive,” said Melissa, who met Gabriel’s parents for the first time as his wife.

During these transitions, the couple began to plan for an actual wedding ceremony in Destin with their friends and family. It was scheduled for September 2018.

When Melissa arrived at Eglin in May, the Air Force threw another monkey wrench in their plans, this time in the form of a six-month deployment for Gabriel.
They would only live together as husband and wife for a month, with a mini-honeymoon cruise squeezed in, before they were separated. Their September wedding was postponed.

“It was like we couldn’t catch a break,” Melissa said.

That month became a crash course in marriage, adaptation and compromise.

“It was a big change and we had some rough moments,” 35-year-old Gabriel said. “We hadn’t really been together with any kind of day-to-day routine. We had to try to learn to adapt to each other’s habits and routines. It was difficult.”

The deployment turned out to be helpful for the new couple. Their relationship deepened with phone calls and encouragements of each other. Due to communication limitations, their talks had to be shorter, direct and focused.

Gabriel comforted and guided Melissa during her transition to a new job, base, house and community. Melissa acted as a motivator for Gabriel, pushing him to use the deployment to further his education and be involved with base and squadron activities. The communication helped them both as Air Force NCOs and husband and wife.

“Our relationship grew so much during the deployment,” Melissa said. “That time allowed us to sort out our feelings, help each other and have space. We also missed each other terribly.”

The motivation and assistance worked. Gabriel was promoted to technical sergeant and the couple won NCO of the Quarter awards at the flight and unit level over the deployment.

They also began planning another Destin wedding for September 2019 and started looking to purchase their first house together.

“I want that walk down the aisle. I have the dress. We want to be married in a church in front of our families,” said Melissa, who, along with Gabriel, is Catholic.

During Gabriel’s deployment, a job vacancy became available for him. To apply for it would mean another possible life upheaval for the couple in 2019.
Melissa said initially she did not want Gabriel to apply for the assignment, hoping for a chance to settle down here after the chaos of their first year together.

 Eventually, she relented, seeing the long-term Air Force benefits over the short-term stability and the opportunity to be closer to her family. Gabriel applied for the position. While he was transitioning back home, Melissa found out he got the job.

On January 25, Gabriel returned home to an emotional reunion with Melissa and a photo and video crew. Melissa had hired a professional team to capture their reunion to share with friends and family.

“We don’t have any wedding pictures. We didn’t have time for any before the deployment. But we could capture this moment and have it forever,” Melissa said.
Gabriel said it was the fastest and easiest deployment out of his three so far.

“I always had something to look forward to with a phone call and just knowing she’s going to be there when I return,” said the 10-year veteran. “That’s when I really knew I was in love with her.”

Since the deployment, the couple said they are again searching for a level of comfort with one another. They have yet to create a normal, stable day-to-day routine involving the other person.

“Honestly, we still haven’t really settled,” Melissa said. “It’s part of the sacrifice of a military marriage.”

Through their short time together, the Gils said they fell they’ve found their missing piece in each other.

“She’s made me a better person,” Gabriel said. “We’re really opposites in a lot of ways, but we balance each other out.”

The Gils will report to Langley AFB, Virginia, in the spring. They will begin a new life again after just starting theirs together only a year prior. The new home and that big family wedding are once again on hold.

“We don’t know when we will be able to plan anything very far in advance,” Melissa said. “It is part of military life and where we are in our careers, and we accept that. At least now, we can accept it together.”