Couple to Spend First Holiday Season Together in Iraq

By Sgt. 1st Class Kerensa Hardy, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq, Nov. 27, 2007 - Army Pvt. Imani Tumbling and Pfc. Angelo Tumbling will celebrate their first major holiday as a married couple and their first anniversary here in a combat zone.

Imani, of Valdosta, Ga., and Angelo, of Norfolk, Va., are both assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Imani, 20, a supply specialist, and Angelo, 23, a fire support specialist, met when he arrived at his new unit in March.

Angelo said he always saw himself as a family man, but, having just ended one relationship before he joined the Army, he said he wanted to "play the field" for a while before settling down.

"I wanted to come in for money for school, so I wasn't looking for anybody," Imani said.

"I didn't even like him when I met him," she said with a scowl. "I wanted to get out of the Army, go to college and after I got out of college, that's when I saw myself getting married."

Even though Angelo and Imani mapped their lives out one way, it seems fate had another plan. After a whirlwind courtship -- less than four months -- the two were married Aug. 2 and departed Fort Campbell, Ky., for Iraq in late September.

"It seemed like we knew each other more than we did; we got close real fast," Angelo said. "I figured if I'm already with her every day and I'm going to be with her and do whatever I have to do to be with her, then why not be married?"

When they decided to make the big step, Imani said, there was no fanfare -- no candlelight dinner, no romantic music -- nothing like that involved.

"He didn't even ask," she said with a laugh, looking at Angelo from the corners of her eyes. "He didn't get down on one knee, he didn't say, 'Will you marry me?' He said, 'You're going to be my wife.'"

Angelo laughed at Imani's recollection of his proposal and said he knew she would say yes.

Even though she tried to play hard to get, Imani said, she knew that she wanted to marry him.

Both said they never thought they would make the leap to marriage this soon, but regard it as an unexpected blessing. "Everybody says we got married too fast," Angelo said. "But we're going to shock the world."

The two harbor no illusions that their marriage will be free of obstacles, but they seem determined to make it work. They have minor disagreements and expect to experience the same bumps in the road as other couples do during the first months or years of marriage. Their road just happens to be in southern Baghdad.

The newlyweds say they feel fortunate to be together during what has been the breaking point of some marriages; but the deployment has turned out to be a benefit.

While it is difficult at times not having family and friends readily accessible to discuss a problem, Imani said, the distance from potential outside influences is making them stronger as a couple.

"I think it's good because we can't talk to everybody else about our problems, and he can't jump in the car and leave," she explained. "We have to sit here and deal with it versus going and running to tell somebody else."

The Tumblings do not claim to have all the answers for the perfect marriage. They just take things one day at a time and hope that this deployment will continue to strengthen what they already have.

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Kerensa Hardy serves with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.)

Couple to Spend First Holiday Season Together in Iraq [ ]