Their vacation in “the states” at an end, the couple waited to catch a flight back to South Korea to resume their Army duties there.
“I was all depressed,” Siobhan Gower recalls. “We were both kind of bummed.”
At that moment in 1999, her then-boyfriend, Jay Gower, got down on one knee and proposed. Right there in the Providence, R.I., airport terminal.
“It definitely cheered me up,” Siobhan said.
That's just the way it was with the Gowers — juggling military duty with a relationship and, eventually, a family. Sure, the military presented challenges for them. But the Army also brought them together.
The two, 19 at the time, met while stationed in South Korea, where both were assigned to a Multiple Launch Rocket System, a tanklike weapon that can fire rockets at numerous targets. Siobhan was working fire control. Jay was a mechanic.
Jay couldn't help but notice Siobhan. “You don't see too many good-looking women out there in the military in Korea,” he said. That “tomboyish” girl also turned out to be “a lot of fun to hang out with and joke around with.”
Siobhan remembers Jay always had a big smile and was “really sweet. A little cutie. Always real nice and respectful.”
Their first date: church services. The two continued spending time together, as much as a busy Army schedule would allow, mostly evenings and weekends.
After the engagement, the couple finished three months of duty in South Korea, then were reassigned back to the states, Jay at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Siobhan a five-hour drive away at Fort Stewart in Georgia, Ga. Three months later, the couple married. But it would be a year before the two would be stationed together, in Germany.
In 2003, their son, Daniel, was born. One year later, another Army challenge: Jay was deployed to a war zone. “It was kind of wrenching to leave your wife and infant son to go to Iraq,” he said.
With Siobhan still in Germany, the couple stayed in touch with email and by phone. Calls often came late as Siobhan was trying to put Daniel to bed. Bad connections made calls difficult, she remembered, making calls seem “almost an inconvenience.”
As Jay's Iraq duty ended, Siobhan decided she'd had enough active duty. She entered the Army Reserve and decided to move the family close to her parents.
“I'm going back to Oklahoma,” she told Jay, half-jokingly. “If you're smart, you will too.”
As part of their long-range plan, Jay, then stationed at Fort Sill, re-enlisted as Siobhan attended college. When she graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminology, she was mobilized for a year as a drill sergeant at Fort Sill. Jay left the military and entered college and also worked for an oil company.
Although the specter of sudden military deployment is about to end, life continues to be busy for the Gowers. Siobhan will soon complete her Reserve duty and will earn a master's degree in human relations in August. Jay is working and going to college. The couple expects a second child in July.
“We've definitely had plenty of trying times,” Siobhan said.
But commitment to each other, along with support from family, friends and members of their church, has helped them through, she said.
“We tend to live life the hard way, but we're hanging in there.”