GREENFIELD — While Cupid’s conscience is gently prodding many couples to make those dinner reservations and not to forget the cards, candy and flowers this Valentine’s Day, Katie North’s plans for her sweetheart are a bit more arduous.
To meet her husband for a romantic dinner, North, an Air Force staff sergeant, boarded a plane Thursday afternoon in San Antonio, Texas, to make a 14-hour, 5,300-mile flight to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Her husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven North, is stationed just down the road at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The couple will spend seven days together.
North, a 2005 graduate of Greenfield-Central High School who enlisted in 2007, is currently stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, where she serves as a radiology instructor.
She met Steven in the Air Force, and the two were married in 2009.
“I’ve been married to Katie for five years, and I think this is the second Valentine’s Day we’ve been able to spend together,” Steven said Thursday from Germany.
Steven is a respiratory therapist on a critical care air transport team, a three-person specialized unit that can transform an airplane into a flying trauma center to care for seriously wounded soldiers.
“Spending Valentine’s Day together has been a pretty rare occasion, but the only time we’re apart is when we’re deployed,” Katie said. “The Air Force does a pretty good job with that.”
At least these days, the Norths and other military couples can bridge the distance through technology, cellphones and the Internet.
“The iPhone is a wonderful thing,” Katie said.
But it wasn’t always as easy as dialing a number or linking up via Skype.
“I had a brother in Vietnam, and we had to wait for letters,” said Katie’s mother, Mary Lynn Burrows, executive assistant at the Hancock County Public Library. “I’m really glad for them. They’re apart so much. At least they can be together for Valentine’s Day.”
Though they’ve been separated on a couple of occasions for a total of about eight months on various deployments, Katie said being apart is easier to deal with, considering the mission.
Landstuhl is the Army’s nearest major hospital for troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Ramstein is a prime stopover for transporting the country’s most critically wounded warriors back to America.
“Getting the service members back home healthy and safely is what it’s all about,” Katie said.
Like other active-duty military families, the Norths unequivocally accept the demands of deployment and its incursion into their married lives. It’s part of the job, and they knew that going in.
“Oh, I absolutely accept it,” Steven said. “But it doesn’t make it any easier.”