How They Met
When asked what Terry’s and Erin’s favorite part about their courtship was, Terry will say it was that they were high school sweethearts, “Being able to have those high school memories, like prom and football, with my wife.” The two started dating their junior year in high school, “I have to agree with Terry,” Erin adds, “There’s just something special about meeting your soulmate in high school and knowing it and being able to have those very special high school memories with your future spouse is heartwarming.” Not long after their high school graduation, Terry enlisted in the Army to become a Chinook mechanic. Once Terry completed basic training (boot camp) the sweethearts got engaged.
Terry and Erin’s families were excited about the wedding and began to plan it for them, “We wanted something outdoors, nothing fancy,” Erin shared, “It turned into a wedding that wasn’t really us.” But just two weeks before their planned wedding date, the 9/11 attacks happened. Terry’s leave was cancelled, and he was placed on standby for deployment. Erin remembers that time, “Terry couldn’t tell me when he was leaving or where he was going over the phone so, after informing family and friends that our wedding was cancelled, my family and I loaded up in the car and drove all night to Fort Campbell, KY.” Terry’s parents happened to be nearby on vacation and were also able to travel to Fort Campbell when they heard the news. “Having our families there, we decided to get married!” Erin exclaimed. They got their ideal outdoor wedding after all; Terry and Erin were married by a justice of the peace at the banks of the Cumberland River in Clarksville, TN. “We wore T-shirts, jeans and sandals. My sisters wore Army T-shirts and Terry’s best friend from the unit got off staff duty and arrived in uniform,” Erin shared. Another streak of coincidence was how a gospel festival took place in a nearby pavilion, “We were serenaded by a local church… it was absolutely perfect,” she added.
Fort Campbell would be Terry’s and Erin’s first and only Army station for 8 years. For 7 of those years, Terry deployed to the middle-east 12 times. Erin recalls, “His deployments were short but came often. The bags stayed packed.” In addition to those war deployments, Terry completed multiple war training deployments and a 1-year assignment in Korea. During all of the travel and distance, the couple welcomed two sons, “Despite the multiple deployments, we somehow managed to get pregnant twice” Erin laughed. Terry and Erin both looked forward to Terry’s homecomings, “Communication was either non-existent or very little during the actual deployment. That honeymoon feeling was every homecoming.” During the war, Terry’s unit lost several aircrafts resulting in Terry losing several close military friends. With that, Terry decided it was time to leave the chaotic military life and return to their home state of Texas where they bought a home.
Reaching Out to CKFF
Terry was quickly able to continue his career as a helicopter mechanic in Texas. “His hours are long and unpredictable, but he enjoys having a job with the same demands he had in the military,” Erin shared. Once settled, the couple realized the impact their military lifestyle had on their entire family. Their oldest son was diagnosed with Child PTSD and Separation Anxiety, “He could remember what he was wearing and where he was standing when Terry would come and go.” Terry didn’t leave the military unscathed, “Survivor’s Guilt is a major, major brick wall,” Erin revealed, “His regret for ‘not doing enough’ haunts him.” Erin sought help online after she began feeling hopeless for their family’s future, “I stumbled upon Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (CKFF) while frantically looking for veteran spouse support at 3 in the morning.” Erin noticed that with the Revitalization Retreats, couples were provided 5 marital coaching sessions with a Licensed Professional Counselor. “I applied for a Retreat for the coaching, not necessarily the trip,” Erin shared.
CKFF thought Terry and Erin’s story perfectly captured what service couples struggle with daily. Knowing that Top Gun was their favorite movie, CKFF sent the couple to San Diego, CA to visit the movie’s famous diner Kansas City BBQ. A tour on the USS Midway, a trip to the San Diego Zoo and a beach day in Coronado were also part of their all-expense paid trip. Erin confessed, “We were letting our everyday lives consume us and we weren’t very thrilled about going on this trip together. But when we arrived in San Diego, neither of us had been there before so, we were on an adventure together and quickly leaned on each other to navigate our days.”
After their retreat, CKFF opened applications for the Mastering Your Marriage (MYM) program. Terry and Erin applied and were accepted. “It always seemed like when we were at our worst, CKFF was there to get us to our best. Just as MYM ended, the Empowered Spouses Retreat (ESR) applications opened up,” Erin recalls.
Where They Are Now
After ESR, CKFF knew Terry and Erin were perfect to become Peer Mentors for Year 2 of MYM. The couple has experienced nearly every program CKFF has to offer and continues to support service couples like themselves. When asked how CKFF has impacted their marriage, Erin explains, “We have gained the tools to have such a smoother time communicating. We may not see eye to eye on everything, but we are invested in trying to understand why the other is hurting, frustrated or sad.” As for their future, Erin says she and her husband are looking forward to it, “We are eager to make new memories even sweeter than the ones we’ve left in the past. We are determined to make this story of ours full of happiness and love.”
A Letter from Erin
What a magical past few days we have had. Once again, we cannot thank you and the foundation enough. We were able to take a deep breath and returned home with our hearts on the same team, ready to take on the world... together. It was all just amazing. Simply amazing. We are so humbled that there are people out there who care so much for military and first responders. We felt so taken care of!
Today is a good day to have a good day!