Tuesday, October 2, 2012

CAPTAIN Stepanoff- The story of how we got here

Honor. Courage. Commitment.  
The Marine Corps has been a major part of our family's life for over four years now.  We started out living in a one bedroom apartment in Virginia and now, four years later, live across the world in Japan. In the four years that we have been "married" to the Marines, we have learned a lot both about the Marine Corps, and about ourselves.  It has certainly had it's ups but has also had it's downs.  But all in all, we are a Marine family.  Always.  And that's why this post is so rewarding for me to write.
Let me start out by explaining how we got here.  
Eight years ago, hubby made the decision to become a Marine.  He went off to a military college in Vermont and spent his days both studying for his degree, and studying the military.  He woke up at 5am most days of the week.  He was screamed at.  He was pushed physically and mentally every day.  This proceeded for 4 years.  In those four years, he met some wonderful people, many of which are still friends today.  
And then comes me.  Somewhere around the end of his senior year, we finally started dating (after a year of a very close friendship).  We only got the chance to spend a few weeks together before he was sent down to Virginia for OCS.  
Officer Candidate School (OCS) is the entry level training for Marines.  It is equivalent to recruit training for enlisted Marines.  He spent a very long 10 weeks becoming a Marine.  I wrote to him every day.  I still have every one of those letters.  
After he graduated OCS he we commissioned an officer in the Marine Corps.  He became a 2nd Lieutenant, and had a few weeks before going back down to Virginia to spend 8 months at The Basic School (TBS).  
In September of 2008, he checked in to TBS.  The Basic School is where newly commissioned officers go to learn leadership skills and much more that will be needed of a Marine officer.  He was there until May of 2009.  I moved down to Virginia in January of 2009 to join him, thinking we would only be there for 6 months before moving again.  I was wrong.  
After TBS ended, we learned that Dima was going to become a Communications officer.  Which means more schooling!  Luckily, the school for communications happened to be where we already were.  We got a bigger apartment, and stayed another 6 months in northern Virginia.  It was a wonderful place to live, and I do miss it.  
With just one month left of school, we learned we were moving to the west coast in 2 months.  We were fairly sure that would mean San Diego, and began looking online at homes.  But just a month and a half before moving, we had an interesting proposition pop up.  A new job was opening in Okinawa, Japan.  Did we want to move out of the country for three years?  After much talking for days, we decided this was the chance of a lifetime.  Just 2 weeks later we had movers at our house boxing up our belongings.  We had very little at the time, but left much of our things in a storage unit in Virginia.  We were young and ready for what Okinawa had to offer us.  
And so we arrived in Okinawa, Japan in December of 2009.  We were to be here for 3 years, and this proved to be a brave move for us.  We quickly learned how different Japan was.  The people, the food, and of course the weather.  We got off the plane wearing sweaters from the cold in Seattle and realized that we would no longer wear sweaters for our 3 years here.  It was hot.  A warm 75 degrees to be exact on December 29.  
We settled into our new home, which at the time seemed huge coming from the little apartment we had.  (Today, our little home is just that- little)  Dima checked into his very first unit as a Marine.  And we began settling into life both in the Marines and in Okinawa.  
In July of 2010, Dima was transferred from his current unit to another what became one year with the Marine Expeditionary Unit.  He was to be working with a helicopter squadron, and would be deploying in a few months.  He was also then promoted to 1st Lieutenant.  
Dima went out on his first deployment in September of 2010.  He was gone for three months and visited many great countries.  He flew in helicopters and worked with some wonderful Marines.  He returned home just in time for our first son to be born in January of 2011.  
After Zach was born, he was then sent out on another deployment.  Again, he spent 3 1/2 months working with the same great Marines as before, and visiting even more countries. He was sent off to Mainland Japan after the earthquake in March of 2011.  It was a rewarding deployment for him.
Since returning from deployment, Dima has returned to his original unit and has worked hard for the past year.  He has had many jobs and responsibilities, and has worked very hard every day.  Many days I wouldn't see him  until late.  Some days I wouldn't see him at all.  He spent weeks and months on exercises here and there.  He was sent to different schools for more learning.  
Eventually we ended up here.  Today.  It's been a long road and he has worked extremely hard to be where he's at.  

Today, after almost 4 1/2 years in the Marine Corps, Dima has been promoted to Captain.  We are so very proud of him and his hard work.  He is truly a role model to my boys.  I hope to god that my boys learn from him every day.  I hope they learn about what it takes to be a true man from their Daddy.  A man who knows that hard work, dedication, and commitment both to his family and his country is what it takes.  We have quite a ride in the Marine Corps so far, and look very much forward to what the Marine Corps has in store for us in the years to come.  Wherever, and whatever that may be!  In the meantime, we are here for the up's and the downs that the Marine has to offer!

Semper Fi!

Swearing in as a Captain

Once again, I got to pin him his new rank

I'm happy to report that I put the pin on perfectly!

Captain Stepanoff and Eli

Zach got promoted too

Captain Zachary Stepanoff.  Though we all know that he outranks Daddy still!

The Stepanoff Family