AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
The stresses of deployment are easier to bear when service members have someone to share the experience with. Some Marines are lucky enough to have a brother, sister, or even a parent beside them to help bear that stress during a deployment. Only a few get the chance to spend their deployment in the same place as their spouse.
The McKenzies are one example of a lucky couple. Brian and Tracie, both corporals, have spent the last few months together in Iraq.
Originally, the two Marines were slated to be deployed to separate bases.
“When I found out that I was going to be attached to (Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369), which was also going to be on the same base, it was exciting,” said Tracie, an aviation supply clerk for HMLA-369. “It was comforting to me, my parents, and his parents. Its hard enough knowing that their son-in-law, their daughter-in-law were going to be deployed, but at least they are on the same base.”
Being together makes it easier for the couple, but it also has drawbacks, according to Brian, a maintenance administration clerk with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161.
“It’s good, but it also has its bad side,” said Brian, a 21-year-old native of Alexandria, Va. “You have to worry about her out here. Like if we get (indirect fire), that’s the first thing you think about. Where is she? What’s she doing? Is she okay? You don’t worry about her back in the rear like other Marines do, but you worry about her out here.”
Although the demands of their deployment tend to keep them busy, the two Marines generally find a few minutes throughout the day to enjoy together.
“We can see each other every day,” said Tracie, a 23-year-old native of Lacey, Wash. “Our commands are pretty good about putting us on the same shift, so I can eat chow with him, or if I want to go PT with him, or spend some time together after work, we can.”
While they get to see each other almost every day, it is not always easy for the two Marines. The mission at hand can sometimes come between them.
“I think it’s harder than people think,” said Tracie. “I’m not in the same position as a lot of these people are, who are deployed away from their loved ones, who can’t see even them or touch them. But it’s hard to be right next to your husband or wife, and not be able to say I love you, or not be able to touch each other, and be completely professional.”
The couple met while they were both at their military occupational specialty school in Mississippi. One night Tracie left her food tray at the table to get something else, and because of an unspoken rule that unattended trays are taken and eaten, Tracie returned to find Brian eating her food. They have been together ever since, according to Brian.
The McKenzies, who have been married for almost two years, believe it has been a blessing to have a spouse in the Marines.
“I think its kind of weird, sometimes, hearing him say ‘yes sir, no sir’ when I’m used to him just being a husband,” said Tracie. “But overall, I think it’s good. It’s like having your best friend have the same interests as you. They can help you out where you need help, and vice versa. I can help him out where he hurts, and he helps me out with motivation for PT and stuff.”
“It’s different,” added Brian. “There are good things and bad things. A good thing is I can come home and talk to her about my job and she actually understands what I’m saying, what it’s like to be a Marine. Whenever I’ve had a bad day I can come home and talk to her about it. Basically, she understands I’m having a bad day and why I’m having a bad day. It’s just nice to be on the same page.”
The McKenzies have not decided on whether or not they will make the Corps a career or not, but whatever lies ahead of them, they intend to take it on together.