MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Her thoughts scatter a million ways as she contemplates, “How well can this go?” and “Will there still be a ‘spark’?” “Who does he hug first, me or our newborn son?”
She’s standing in the airport arrival terminal unsure of how to greet her husband. After seven long months, here he comes. "He’s walking our way," she thinks to herself as her husband returns from a deployment.
Her nervousness sets in as she rushes over to greet him. She attempts handing her son over to him, but instead, he opens his arms wide hugging them both.
It was in this moment Tela Royston realized she never cherished her husband’s hugs more than after not receiving one in almost a year.
Tela works at the Misawa Navy Gateway Inns & Suites as a program analyst. Her husband, Tech. Sgt. Aaron Royston, serves as the 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron ground transportation operations center NCO in charge.
“Have you ever introduced your spouse to your child in an airport? I have,” recalls Tela. “My husband seemed more nervous than me because he barely knew how to hold a baby.”
Others observed the couple’s homecoming at baggage claim, capturing photos, and some, even shedding tears.
“Handing my son to his father for the first time and seeing them together is singlehandedly the most joyful day of my life,” Tela gushed.
In August 2008, Tela and her husband married and soon looked forward to welcoming their first child into the world together. Unbeknownst to them, Aaron would soon board a plane to Kuwait.
Tela explained how challenging experiencing pregnancy and her first deployment alone was for her.
“Our son arrived on June 7, 2009, in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” she said. “My mother, father, sister and husband’s aunt attended his birth, while my husband briefly spoke with me on the phone within the last few moments before Aaron Royston, Jr.’s delivery.”
Tela continued sharing how raising a newborn alone is no easy gig, especially knowing her husband wanted to be present but missed out on several notable moments.
The two first met in geology class at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix in 2006; she's been on the military roller coaster ever since.
As a military spouse, Tela has moved to four bases including Joint Bases Anacostia-Bolling and Andrews in Maryland, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Although the experience has been amazing, she said, the military spouse life has its ups and downs. Aaron, Sr., shares how this life has brought them closer together as husband and wife and father and mother.
“The military strengthened our bond,” Aaron, Sr. said. “If we could survive back-to-back deployments and live thousands of miles away from each other, then we can handle this lifestyle together.”
According to Tela, there are no guarantees in the military. Duty stations and tour lengths are never definite. The deployment factor in itself poses an uneasiness for her.
“I’ve heard a military spouse is the toughest job; I disagree entirely,” Tela explained. “Being an armed forces spouse does pose its challenges, but I discovered raising a military child may be more difficult, due to the distance from family members. However, the support we receive here is phenomenal.”
Tela said moving to Misawa provided her family with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the Japanese culture and embrace Japan’s hiking, camping, photography, beaches, fishing and shopping. A few years ago, though, Tela would not have said the same.
“My most difficult move was to Misawa,” Tela recalled. “I never traveled outside the United States before, so this was my first experience in another country. The move terrified me because I never lived abroad nor imagined we would end up in Japan. The culture shock set in swiftly upon arrival, and it took time to adjust.”
More than that, Tela had to give up some job opportunities and feared finance struggles when moving here.
“Prior to moving to Misawa, I had a phenomenal job and halfway completed my health care administration master’s degree,” explained Tela. “The move abroad made finding employment for my field of study tough. After a few months, I was fortunate enough to find employment and made friends while working with Japanese nationals.”
Though she struggled with her overseas move, an unstable career and a lack of housing options, one of her Japanese friends gave her one of her most memorable moments.
“My friend and coworker, Hiroko, gave me a Yukata, which is a summer-style kimono, an Obi Sash and Geta for my 30th birthday,” Tela explained. “Hiroko met me at the Hoshino Resort in Misawa City, Japan, and helped me put on my yukata for birthday photos. To have a dear friend gift me something and help me get dressed was a beautiful and a heartwarming experience."
Tela regrets nothing because every decision allowed her to experience something meaningful, whether living in the moment with those she loves or being gifted and helped by a friend.
“I wouldn’t change any life decisions I’ve made so far,” shared Tela. “Marriages and people aren’t perfect, but I feel my marriage is pretty close to it. I made a crazy and extremely short-notice decision to marry my college sweetheart after he enlisted, and here we are, 10 years later, enjoying life together and raising our son in a beautiful country.”