Tag Archives: Staff Sgt. Shaun Hostutler

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.

Combat couple: staff sergeant reflects on trading drink orders for deployment orders

by 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 this unique military experience with Air Force Live.)

It all started with a Q-tip.

Well, actually, the Q-tip is the beginning of something else (we’ll save that story for later). I suppose the best way to start this story would be to share how I came to be a member of the world’s finest Air Force in the first place.

That’s why you’re here after all, isn’t it?

When I first started out in the Air Force, I was determined to stay focused. After dropping out of college and moving home to Austin (I couldn’t pay for tuition on my own after a year and a half at Baylor), I had spent a few years bartending. While the job was fun, it was just that – a job. I had always promised myself I wouldn’t settle into a job; I would establish a career in a field that I had genuine passion for. I wanted to be a journalist.

In bartending, there was free booze but no benefits and no health insurance. I had barely enough money to pay bills, feed my dog, buy some ramen noodles and send the rest to family who needed it. And sometimes, there was barely enough for the ramen noodles.

I can’t tell you how creative cooking can get when you’ve got next to nothing in the fridge and your power is cut off.

After two years of cleaning crusted puke and urine from bathroom stalls, being grabbed at by frat boys who couldn’t hold their liquor or control their bladders, and having to force a flirtatious smile all the while (because a sour face makes no money), I was convinced that I had failed. Some friends had graduated from college, others were starting careers. They were moving forward and I was going nowhere.

How would I find a way to finish school, land the perfect job, do what I love, make a good living, and establish world peace before I turned 21? My standards were high and unrealistic at times, but I held onto them.

I determined the easiest way to get to a combat zone and begin my career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist – without having to pour coffee for some editor while scraping together enough money to live – would be to enlist in the military. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

I went to the first recruiting office I could find. I grew up an Army brat and figured, why the hell not? The Army office was closed that day, but the Air Force recruiter was in his office. From what I hear, it’s usually the other way around. I have never regretted walking into that office.

The life that the Air Force promised seemed to be so much more.

They emphasized education, encouraged independent thinking, and rewarded hard work. Not only did I find that I would be able to deploy, but I could also guarantee a job as a news broadcaster if I could pass a voice audition. I jumped at the chance. Maybe I wouldn’t be the next Eddie Adams right away, but I could go for being the next Christiane Amanpour or Lisa Ling. A few short weeks later, I was on a blue bus, on my way to basic training at what was then called Lackland Air Force Base – the “Gateway to the Air Force” – in San Antonio, Texas.

When I first enlisted, I had no idea how hard it would be to volunteer for a combat deployment. My military training instructor at basic nearly spit his coffee in my face, laughing when I asked during the second week of training how soon would it be before I could get an assignment to Afghanistan. I had to get in country before the war was over, because I knew that even though the war had reached its seven year mark and the nation was preparing to send in a surge, it could end at any moment and I’d miss my chance.

It would be five years before I would finally deploy.

It seemed to me that I was always in the right place at the wrong time. No matter how often I raised my hand to go, there was always a roadblock. I think it was fate’s sense of humor. It wouldn’t be until I stopped waving my hand like a six-year-old with a pressing question that I’d actually be able to go.

I thought it was never going to happen.

I guess that brings us to where we are now. Five years passed. In the time it took for me to finally get orders to Afghanistan, I was promoted, got married, moved across the world, was promoted again, had a baby, was tasked for two deployments that were canceled, had another baby, and returned to the States.

Just as my husband and I were getting settled in at my third duty station and looking to buy a house, he received orders to Afghanistan. And I was staying home with the kids. I wanted to be happy for him. Secretly, I was annoyed.

But life has a funny way of working things out. After all, I am writing to you from Afghanistan. Must be that funny sense of humor fate has again. Call it luck or pure coincidence, but this time his orders were canceled and mine finally stuck. I call it fate. It’s hard not to, when it was something as small as a Q-tip that got us to where we are now.

But like I said, that’s a story for another day.