With orders to deploy to Afghanistan in hand, Staff Sgt. Brandon Salah started putting the wheels in motion to make sure everything was taken care of at home before he left.
But before he could start planning, his wife Ana, a sergeant, received orders to deploy to Afghanistan as well. The couple, married for a little more than a year and both assigned to I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, was headed to Afghanistan together.
"At first we were trying to figure the whole thing out, then we had to start over from scratch," said Brandon, who works upstairs from Ana while the two are serving at JBLM. "It was interesting."
The two California natives met while on a previous deployment. The couple is stationed together on New Kabul Compound, one of several military outposts located in the city. They both arrived in June and are assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan - Ana as administrative NCO, and Brandon as a member of the Combat Drive Team.
While the deployment has been difficult because both miss their four children very much, it has been a blessing for each in that they get to see each other every day.
"It's great because I have my best friend out there that I can sit and talk to at the end of every day," Brandon said via telephone from Afghanistan last week.
"It's a lot less stressful," Ana added.
But while spouses separated during deployments don't know when their loved one is heading into the war zone on a daily basis, that fact is something the Salahs routinely face. As a member of the drive team, Brandon often travels from compound to compound, exposing himself to potential danger.
"I worry when I know he's on the road all day," said Ana, a 12-year Army veteran, "but he's careful and he's good at his job, so I trust that he will make it back safe."
Getting to see Brandon each time after he comes back from a mission is a huge bonus, she said.
"I have my best friend here and I know no matter what happens she is there for me," Brandon said.
The couple is counting the days until they can see their four sons (Jacob and Chad, 9, Ben, 6, and Roland, 3). They are staying with family in California, as the Salahs had to move out of their rented home in Puyallup before they deployed.
"I think the boys are handling it well," Ana said. "They've really been focused on school and their friends. We talk to them every other day."
"With the two older boys, I think it has been a little hard cause they understand more," Brandon added. "But with the two younger boys I think that they are just having fun with family. They do have a very strong family support system."
The couple is in the midst of traveling to California to see their sons and the rest of their families over the New Year's Day holiday. After the Salahs complete their deployment, the family is planning on taking a trip to Disneyland.