They got the news while on vacation on Catalina Island, Calif., that summer. George was invited for a trip on Courtney’s family boat, which meant 12 days of very close contact with her parents. “Thank God they liked me,” George says. Surrounded by Courtney’s family, the new couple was greeted with the news that George would be stationed in Afghanistan for a year.
“I knew he was accepted into the family when we got the orders and we all gathered as a family and cried a little and knew it was all going to be okay,” Courtney says.
The news brought them closer and showed them that they were dedicated for the long term. In November 2011, right before his deployment, George bought Courtney a dachshund puppy named Sunshine in hopes of providing her with some sort of companionship while he was away.
George deployed that month, and they started to Skype every few days.
“We managed to do things that normal couples do, like I would send him different things so he could cook food that reminded him of home,” Courtney says. “And my girlfriends were as blown away as I was when he was able to go into the bazaar to shop for jewelry for my birthday.”
“I learned that Courtney never had any military background, so she hadn’t been exposed to the deployment process and being separated for so long, especially for a year,” George says. “I learned how strong she was, and devoted, if she was willing to hang on for that long.”
In May 2012, George was allowed a two-week vacation. He planned a cruise for the couple, around the boot of Italy. They would start in Rome and end up in Venice, where George had a plan. But he hit a presidential speed bump in getting to Rome.
The trip was booked during the first anniversary of the capturing and killing of Osama bin Laden. President Obama had flown to the base where George was stationed, and no planes were allowed out. Meanwhile, Courtney was in Rome waiting for the trip to start. A few days later, George was finally able to meet her.
From the beginning, George was nervous.
“He had been really sheepish the first few days of the trip, and I couldn’t really understand why. I wondered if he was just adjusting to being in civilization or if I had done something,” Courtney says. “But I found out soon enough it was because he felt horrible that he hadn’t figured out how he could get a ring while on base.”