My husband and I had been dating for a few months when his military engineer unit was deployed to Ponape, a tiny Pacific Island with a small community. We had truly fallen in love just a few weeks before he left, and we were both at a crossroad: he was just entering a whirlwind military career path that would take him to the far reaches of the world; and I was embarking on a career in Asia working with a large corporation that was my dream job.
Just before my move to Japan, he asked me to visit him on Ponape. I did, thinking that we would end or build our now-serious relationship given the strong feelings that we were experiencing. I prepared for the worst as I planned my trip there.
There were 3 flights a week to Ponape. I arrived early for my flight as did the other 8 passengers. We sat and waited and waited without a plane at our gate. An airline representative saw us all waiting there and said, "If you are on the flight to Ponape, Kwajalein and Kosrae, they filled the plane with cargo and left early. You will have to book the next flight which is in 3 days."
I was devastated – it was Dec. 30 and I was supposed to join him at the various New Year’s parties across Ponape that he had been invited to. I tried to call him on the military radio system, only to be told by the Ponape operator that "the Americans were not up yet" as she could look down into their camp from her office. After trying many hours, I still could not reach him. When I finally did, I found that he had gone to wait for me at the airport with the Governor, and waited and waited. He was hit harder than I anticipated, and when I finally made it to Ponape 3 days later, we knew we were in love.
He waited until the last day of my trip, and took me to a beautiful grass hut over a bay where we were alone. He told me that when he was in 7th grade, he had made a paper mache set of wedding rings in shop for the girl who he would meet someday and would ask to be his wife. He said that he had waited to find her for a long time, and now he had found her. With that, he slipped two rings out of his pocket. They wide bands of light lavender and dark blue and purple paper mache with diamond patterns in them. He placed the smaller one on my finger and said, "I would like to marry you. Will you be my wife?"
I was completely ecstatic and said, "Yes, yes, yes, I will!!" and I have kept those rings as my most precious possessions ever since. Later, he gave me a West Point miniature engagement ring with a beautiful diamond in it, continuing a tradition of the Military Academy, but I still take out the paper mache rings and feel the flush of excitement and the intensity of the feelings that we had that day in Paradise. It was a dream come true.
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