Holidays can be rough for military personnel serving overseas, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. But if you thought this was hard enough, try having the love of your life halfway around the world getting a degree in the US. The story below has helped us all believe that true love is not bound to miles apart…
Justine and Derek met in high school in La Verne, CA.
“After he graduated, we connected at my senior homecoming together,” Justine explains. “That night, we danced a ton and he asked my father if we could date when we got back to my house. I’d always had a crush on him, so it was wonderful.”
Their high school romance, however, was destined to last only one short month. After breaking up (neither of them remembers why), Justine and Derek went their separate ways, neither keeping in touch with the other until three years later, in 2011.
Skype – the lifeline of a relationship
It was when Justine saw Derek’s name come up in a social media feed that she decided to reconnect with him. By then Derek had joined the US Army and was stationed in Germany.
“Skype gave us the ability to chat face-to-face while we were more than 5,600 miles away from each other,” says Justine.
“I love to say Skype was the lifeline to our relationship. Since we hadn’t been in touch for three years, we were able to catch up as though we were in the same room. Thousands of miles became close to nothing when we were face-to-face.”
“I was so grateful to reconnect this way, and we were able to grow each day in how we cared for each other. We would talk and talk for hours—and it was wonderful! This went on for two years during which time, I saw him for two weeks at a time while he was on leave from the Army.”
Being in person always made it that much more difficult to be apart again, but they found it bearable knowing they’d soon be together again on Skype. In fact, Skype saw them through his year-long deployment in Afghanistan.
“At times, connections were rough, but Skype always pulled through—and so did we,” she says. Without their ability to video chat, Justine felt they might not have survived such a long long-distance relationship.
While Derek was stationed in Afghanistan, Justine was in school full-time pursuing her undergraduate degree.
“With Afghanistan being about 12 hours ahead of us, scheduling time to chat was difficult, but we made it work,” says Justine. “I’d chat with him between classes or on lunch. And at night, I’d go to bed early or stay up until midnight to chat with him while he was on lunch.”
365 love notes
“I worked secretly to craft 365 love notes that told him how much I loved him, what his best traits were, and what I looked forward to in our lives together,” Justine recounts. “I packaged them up and shipped them to him in Afghanistan along with other care package items.”
“I was able to be on Skype with him as he opened the jar of individually wrapped love notes and I explained what they were for. Each day, he was to open one and then he’d be that much closer to coming home. I’ll never forget the smile I got that day and how much wider it got when he opened the first one. Throughout the year, he’d typically wait to open them while we were on Skype together. For deployed soldiers, it’s hard to count the days—so they just don’t. With these notes, it was the best way to know home was closer to being a reality.”
A surprise graduation present
One of Justine’s favorite Skype moments was when she graduated from college and Derek surprised her by video calling during the ceremony.
“There I was, among hundreds of grads sitting in our chairs—and my Skype app pings me. I answered and he stayed on, writing me congrats and sweet things, being on video until they called my name. I was able to capture this moment by taking a screenshot, and it made graduation so special because he was “there” despite being more than 7,500 miles away.“
Another fun time was when Derek made Justine a Build-a-Bear military-themed bunny named Derek Jr. (the bunny was to watch over her until he got home), and waited for her to open her present while they were on Skype together.
They also celebrated a Valentine’s Day together when Derek sent Justine three bouquets of roses, and called via Skype to tell her how much he loved her.
Birthdays are days soldiers often struggle with because they aren’t home and there aren’t celebrations to be had, Justine explained.
“I packed an awesome box together with cake, candles, candy goodies, other care items, and the full Stars Wars DVD collection. Being the Star Wars fan he is, it was a wonderful birthday and one where I got to sing Happy Birthday over Skype to him.”
The holidays too can be rough stationed so far away from home, so Justine got Derek’s entire family to record videos wishing him a Happy Thanksgiving.
“I organized everything into a sweet video compilation and was online with him on Skype as he watched all the love everyone sent. Many of these moments were teary-eyed memories that we were able to create together despite the distance.”
Happily ever after
After his deployment in Afghanistan, Derek was stationed in Washington State. The time difference with California was no longer a barrier but it still meant they had to be apart from each other for another two years until Derek left his five-years of service with an honorable discharge and military honors.
“He’s finally home, and we always look back at our time apart with fondness,” says Justine. “If we could use Skype to communicate over thousands of miles, we could talk through things together in the same room. Turns out that’s true for us, and today, we are almost two years married and very wonderfully happy. “
Thank you, Justine and Derek, for sharing your beautiful story with us! And massive congratulations on a successful three-year long-distance relationship—we’re honored to have been a part of it.
To all of you, if you have a Skype story you’d like to share, just tag us @Skype on social media. We’d love to hear it!