“For the first couple of years we were together, we didn’t spend Valentine’s Day with each other,” said Courtney Carnes, who met her husband Garrett in 2008. “I don’t think we spent a Valentine’s Day together until 2013—Garrett was either deployed or working or we were in different parts of the country.”
Such is the life of a military couple. Many of the things non-military couples take for granted— a romantic Valentine’s Day together—can become very special occasions for those who serve.
In the case of Courtney and Garrett, who were married on April 25, 2010, their first Valentine’s Day together—February 14, 2013—was spent at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “We were just thankful that we got to be together,” Courtney said. Garrett was approaching the one-year anniversary of his February 19, 2012 encounter in Afghanistan with the improvised explosive device that claimed both his legs. He’d arrived in Bethesda on February 25, 2012, and would remain in recovery there until shortly after his retirement on June 30, 2013.
Courtney notes that in some ways, the injury has made their relationship stronger. When asked about the one quality she admires most about her husband, Courtney has no trouble coming up with an answer.
“Definitely his attitude as far as how he handles everything being injured,” she says. “He always looks at it very positively. He never thought, ‘I can’t do this.’ It’s always, ‘I can still handle this, I can still be a good husband. He took a very bad situation and always kept positive.”
“Our devotion and commitment to each other were definitely emphasized after the injury,” she continues. “We lean on each other. When I was a kid, I always thought relationships were 50-50, but that’s not always the case. It flips back and forth, sometimes one person carries the other person a little more.”
Valentines Day 2015 will be unique for this North Carolina couple: Garrett and Courtney will spend it together with their first child, Chase, who was born May 1, 2014.
“After trying for over a year, our prayers were finally answered,” Courtney says. “We named him after the corpsman who saved Garrett’s life the day he was hurt. Valentine’s Day? This one will be special: We have our little babe to celebrate our love.”