Adams, an Air Force captain who works in public affairs, met Ismirle at an officer training school in Alabama in January 2008.
“I remember doing the double take when he walked in the room, ‘cause he’s crazy attractive,” Adams says. “But I was just really impressed with his ability to interact with people. He’s very good at doing any kind of leadership thing. He can talk to anybody and be friends with anybody.”
Ismirle, a fighter pilot who, with his twin brother, was the first in his family to graduate from a four-year college, was also intrigued by Adams. But he was getting ready to ship off to England and wasn’t focused on starting a romance. After eight weeks, they said goodbye without so much as a kiss.
They stayed in touch: Adams, who was stationed in Alaska, would e-mail, and occasionally Ismirle would call. Their feelings grew despite the distance. Ismirle, now 34, went out with his buddies to clubs in Europe, but he found himself unable to even consider another woman. “That’s kind of how I knew,” he says. “I’m half a world away and not interested in hitting on other girls.”
In December, he flew home for a break and invited Adams to meet him in Washington. “This is kind of corny to say, but I already knew that I was head over heels in love,” she says. “I just knew. We’ve always had that weird connection somehow.”
They saw the White House Christmas tree and walked around the Lincoln Memorial at night. They went ice skating and drank hot chocolate and finally they kissed. “It was just this perfect, beautiful, winter weekend in this amazing city,” she says.
By the end, they decided they were committed to each other. After he left for his first tour in Afghanistan, she sent him care packages and when she had the chance, she hopped on a plane carrying Army equipment and flew halfway across the world to visit him for just an hour and a half.
By the time he got back to England five months later, Adams was stationed at Fort Meade, Md., which made it easy for her to meet up with him for quick getaways in cities across Europe. In April 2010, just before he was scheduled to return to Afghanistan, they traveled to Venice. As they looked out over the city from their hotel, Ismirle proposed.
It was five months later that Adams noticed the lump. She assumed it was nothing menacing; her family had no history of breast cancer and her mother had had benign cysts before. But her mom insisted she visit a doctor immediately upon her return to the United States. By the end of their two-week trip, Adams felt sure the mass had grown. “I thought maybe it was my head playing tricks on me,” she says.