Combat couple: a perfect match

by Marine Sgt. Aaron Hostutler and Staff Sgt. Shaun Hostutler
edited by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

(Editor’s note: Staff Sgt. Shaun Hostutler is a broadcaster and her husband, Marine Sgt. Aaron Hostutler, is a photojournalist. Shaun is on her first tour in Afghanistan as a combat correspondent. While the couple and their children have been separated by prior deployments, this is the first time Shaun has deployed while Aaron remained stateside. Shaun and Aaron have agreed to share their unique military experience with Air Force Live. In this installment, the couple discusses getting married and starting a family in a he-said/she-said format.)

Aaron:
If it were left to the wife, it would take forever for us to get to the present. She has a knack for nostalgia, always asking if I remember when this or that happened. So, I’ll be taking the lead on this one.
CombatCouple_new

Okinawa was my first duty station. Working the grind of a weekly Marine Corps newspaper wasn’t always great, but life was still pretty good–partying like there was no tomorrow, making mistakes and a lot of juvenile decisions. That’s life as a young Marine, right?

Time passed and women came and went, but there was one that somehow always stuck in my mind–Shaun, the Airman from Defense Information School. There was something there that I couldn’t ignore, despite moving our separate ways after DINFOS–her to Texas, me to Oki. Sitting in my room one night, I decided to send her a Myspace message. Yeah, you read that right. Myspace was cool back then.

hey i know this is gonna sound off the wall but just listen.
i know we both got our own things going on right now but while i was at dinfos i kinda fell for ya which is stupid cause  we didn’t get a chance to spend much time with each other.
anyway u do mean a lot to me and for the life of me, i don’t know why but u do.
so check it out. It’s not gonna be for a long while but whenever it is i wanna be able to look u up. it might be 2, 3 or even more years down the line, and who knows where we will be then. but ive known alot of really good people who ive lost touch with and never really gotta chance to get back in touch.
so i know this all sounds crazy and honestly im not even sure what im tryin to say, but just keep the door open i guess. and a couple years from now i wanna look u up and see where ur at.
this prolly all sounds crazy 2 u it does to me but i just wanted to say it. so there it is.

Well, she got back to me; I got back to her, and we stayed close.

Shortly after a visit to Texas, we decided to seriously do the long-distance dating thing. In the midst of all this, I received an email from the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Bone Marrow Foundation.

The cotton swab.

They were writing to me to let me know I was a potential match for one of their patients. A few blood tests later, it was confirmed. I was the best match.

Shaun:
Wait. I can’t let him leave out all the sappy stuff, although the Myspace message is a good touch. I love reading that thing; it makes me tear up a little every time. Growing up in a Hispanic-Catholic household, I started to believe that things which would otherwise seem like minor coincidences are signs from above. If it weren’t for his attempt at impressing me at DINFOS, we wouldn’t be where we were, and he never would have popped up as a match for bone marrow donation. To me, the message, the cotton swab and being the perfect match–they were all signs that we were always meant to be together. Call me crazy, but what were the odds really?

Aaron:
Always interrupting me mid-story–that’s marriage isn’t it?

I guess I bought into the magic a little. I loved the girl. I didn’t want to lose her and didn’t want the military to keep us apart–and she was coming up on orders soon.

I popped the question.

Shaun:
He asked on the phone, which was not the most romantic setting. It still made my heart melt.

Texas is one of the few states where you can get married by proxy. Within a few weeks, we received Aaron’s paperwork from Okinawa naming one of my friends, an Airman I worked with, as his proxy. You can’t imagine the laughter and shock that ensued when our supervisor found out that our lunch break had turned into a courthouse visit, where Sauce stood in for my husband.

Aaron:
I got ready to donate bone marrow shortly after the wedding. I was told I would need to choose an escort to help me after the procedure, because I’d be weak.

“I’d like it to be my wife with me,” I said in a serious, business-like tone. It had been maybe two weeks since we technically tied the knot, so it still felt cool to say “my wife.”

A few weeks later, both of us flew to California. It was the first time we had seen each other since becoming husband and wife, and we had two weeks alone together.

After the docs finished the marrow procedure, we visited Shaun’s family in Texas. At this point, our marriage was still a secret. She had some crazy idea that it would be best to keep it a secret until we could have a real wedding for her family.

Four weeks into our trip, on the day we were supposed to drive up to see her mom, I woke up to a pregnancy test being waved in front of my face.
We were pregnant.

According to the math, it took us no time at all to add a new Hostutler to the mix. There was no way we’d be able to keep this a secret any longer. Now Shaun would not only have to surprise her family with the news of our marriage, but also that we were expecting.

Word travels fast in a Mexican and Italian family. One of her sisters let the cat out of the bag. Before we could drive up to Austin from San Antonio, the phone was ringing off the hook. It was her mother, Patricia Cano. I say it like that because this is a woman whose full name must be used, a woman not to be reckoned with. I mustered up the courage to answer the phone.

“Hello?”

“You got something you wanna tell me?” she responded.

I was ill-equipped to handle this conversation.

“I think you should talk to Shaun,” I said, trying to save myself.

“Oh no! You’re man enough to get my daughter pregnant, then you can talk to me!”

Let’s just say the initial impact didn’t go over so well, but by the time we made it up to Austin, Patricia couldn’t be happier for her daughter and was already asking to be called “Nana Pat.”

Fast-forward a little–three years, to be exact. You really don’t want to read every detail.

Shaun:
Even though we had a fairy-tale start, every marriage will have its set of problems and bumps in the road.

Aaron:
And being a not-so-typical dual military couple–it was rocky. It was tough. There have been nights spent sleeping separately, doors slammed, tears shed (hers, not mine, of course), and the “D” word dropped. When we were good, we were great. When we were bad, it got rough. But we’re making it. We aren’t going to lie and say every step has been easy.

Shaun:
But when you find “the one,” there’s no one you’d rather fight, no one else you love more. When it’s all said and done, there’s no one else you’d rather face the world with.

Aaron:
Three years and two sons …

Through all of it, Shaun was always a great wife. But she was meant to be a mother. I don’t know how she does it. I love being a dad, but I’m pretty much clueless and not afraid to admit it.

Which brings me to where we are now, the deployment. I was originally scheduled to deploy and she was going to stay home with the kids.

Originally is the key word.

Life has a funny way of mixing things up when you least expect it.

Read the second “Combat couple” entry.

Read the first “Combat couple” entry.

Week in Photos, June 8, 2012

U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft near Mount Fuji

By Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Here’s a pretty sweet photo of a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft near Mount Fuji, Japan, and it’s just a taste of what you’ll get in this week’s Air Force Week in Photos. Enjoy!

Week in photos, Feb. 3, 2012

 U.S. Air Force C-130J Hercules cargo aircraft By Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin
U.S. Air Force Public Affairs

With a wing span a great as four F-16s the C-130 is a massive aircraft. To see such a huge piece of equipment take-off is a mesmerizing site. In this photo the Hercules soars above the cloud deck followed by the smoke of flares swirling in a frenzy of displaced air.

This photo says “The sky is the limit and the U.S. Air Force goes beyond that.” Whether we’re bringing troops and supplies into a hostile area or aid to a disaster torn nation, the Air Force gets the job done.

Jump on over to our Flickr site to see more examples of awesome airpower in our most recent Air Force Week in Photos set.

Photo: A U.S. Air Force C-130J Hercules cargo aircraft from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, conducts flare training off the Ventura County coast Jan. 10, 2012. The flares are used as tactical infrared countermeasures to confuse and redirect heat-seeking missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Dave Buttner)

Photo of the day, Nov. 17, 2011

Airmen in a helicopter

Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Juaacklyn Denny, a broadcaster from the 374th Airlift Wing, captures video from a UH-1 Iroquois utility helicopter during the Samurai Surge over Yokota, Japan, Nov. 2, 2011. Samurai Surge is an all day flying exercise that tests pilots in several areas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Osakabe Yasuo)

Blog spotlight: assisting Japan perspective from week 1

Lt. Col. Steve Goodman 

By Airman 1st Class Christopher Gere, Broadcaster

Air Force Public Affairs Agency

“It was both a rewarding and humbling experience to assist, even in a small way, with the tsunami recovery efforts on Honshu.”

In the PACAF Pixels blog post “Assisting Japan perspective from Week 1,” Lt. Col. Steve Goodman, a Combat Rescue Officer, lends his experience and reaction of initial search and rescue operations in some of the areas in Japan most devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.  

“While we witnessed some devastating sights, not everything we saw was disheartening. As horrific as the pictures on the news are, they can’t capture the true gravity of what has happened to the Honshu coastline. It’s horrible. However, what the news hasn’t captured is what made the greatest impression on me. The Japanese people are doing a very good job in the wake of the disaster. They are a model of resilience and organization. While they continue to work through challenges and welcome help with the greatest of them, they have a lot to be proud of.”

Lt.  Col. Goodman goes on to explain how when he arrived on scene in some locations, he was surprised to find small organized groups of survivors. This inspired him, as through all of the death and devastation around them, the Japanese remained calm.

“There was no looting or pushing to the front of the line, only selflessness. No one asked for a ride further away, towards greater warmth or safety. All of that calm, despite the significant losses they had already sustained.”

What further inspired him was that even though he and his men jumped at every opportunity to go out and find more people and offer more help, they consistently found the Japanese Self Defense Force doing more than their fair share of the work. Through their perseverance, he discovered there is always more that can be done.

“American efforts have been notable, specifically with the opening of airfields and the ship-to-shore movement of supplies. However, the greatest efforts have been the Japanese recovery efforts. We shouldn’t lose sight of that while we maintain pride in our own efforts to help.”

To read the entire blog post by Lt. Col. Goodman go here and find out more about the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) as well as what they are doing for Japan, visit PACAF Pixels, a blog with posts written by PACAF Airmen.