Iraq soldier’s spouse keeps flame alive

Dianna and David Broening were married just one month before they had to say good-bye.

Their relationship has sped by over the past year. They met in the fall of 2005, he proposed July 2006 and they tied the knot Sept. 2. For a month they tried not to focus on what was coming, but on Oct. 5 David left for Iraq. In their first year of marriage, they will have spent only one month together.


Finding love

David, now 21, was transferred from North Carolina to Alaska in 2005. His friend from the Army and future best man, Dustin Kelley, brought him to Faith Christian Community and introduced him to Dianna, an education major at UAA, now 20.

The two grew closer together, even though they knew he would eventually head to Iraq. Dianna said she wouldn’t say David was excited to go, but he was excited to finally use his training.

“I never thought that I would date a military guy,” she said, “just because of the fact that they’re gone all the time. But I guess it was just his personality. There was just something about him that it was different.”

Happiness glowed in her smile when she thought about David. She liked his sense of humor, his looks, and that he was a Christian.

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Dianna has a quiet and calm personality, the opposite of her husband’s.

“He’s outgoing and I’m not, so he kind of brings out my outgoing side a lot,” Dianna said. “He makes anything more fun.”

Dianna was quite the catch herself.

“She is absolutely adorable,” said longtime friend Ashley Clark. “I don’t think there are any qualities that he doesn’t love. She has a great personality, she’s really funny, she’s beautiful.”

Ashley, an undeclared freshman, has known Dianna for about five years.

“They found each other, they’re soul mates, and it’s very apparent when you see them,” Ashley said.

The proposal wasn’t what most would call romantic. David had asked her father’s permission to marry her a month earlier – while Dianna was in the room. The two had recently been talking about marriage, but she didn’t expect him to get on one knee and bring out a ring while they were hanging out at her parents’ house.

“I was definitely shocked,” Dianna said. David hadn’t planned on the sudden proposal either. He secretly bought the ring and was planning something special, but he decided he couldn’t wait anymore.

With his trip to Iraq approaching quickly, the two set the September date. This gave Dianna just one month to plan a small wedding while her fianc? was in training in Louisiana.

They combined their 10-day New York honeymoon with a trip down the East Coast to visit David’s family before he left for Iraq.

They didn’t find out the exact date he would be deployed until a week before it came.

That week went by fast. They were busy getting him packed and ready to leave. She drove him to work at 5 a.m. every day while she was taking a full load of UAA classes. Oct. 5 quickly came, and he boarded the plane for Iraq.

Staying connected

For four months they’ve been mastering staying connected while on opposite sides of the globe.

“He calls me whenever he can, which is usually once a week, maybe twice if I’m lucky,” Dianna said.

A computer sits in her room with a picture from their wedding day on the shelf next to it. Every day she sends him an e-mail, letting him know about the little things in the day so their weekly half-hour phone calls can focus on more important things. He doesn’t e-mail back much because he doesn’t have time to read and reply to all his e-mails with the computer time he is allotted. About ten times, by chance, they’ve been on the Internet at the same time and instant messaged. She sends a few letters each month, but it takes about two weeks for him to get them.

She still hasn’t seen the letters he mailed her a month ago.

They try to communicate the way they did when they were able to see each other every day.

“We just kind of tell each other what we’ve been doing,” Dianna said. “He tells me about sitting around on guard duty, and I tell him about my boring classes.”

She can’t imagine what it would be like if they could only communicate through mail, as couples in past wars had to do.

Lloyd and Carol Pool have been married 44 years and thrived in their long-distance relationship while Lloyd was a Marine serving in Vietnam. He did two tours, each longer than a year, between 1965 and 1970.

Letters took a week to get through the mail to a loved one. Carol wrote a letter almost every day and numbered each one so Lloyd could read them in order. Sometimes they sent tape-recorded messages so each could hear the other’s voice. The other option, sometimes available, was to use a ham radio. The problem was that two radio operators had to stay on the line for the entire conversation.

“You certainly weren’t very intimate with two other people listening on the line,” Lloyd said.

Now they can send e-mails to their son, in Iraq, and hear back within hours instead of days or weeks.

“We’ve been good communicators since we’ve known each other,” Lloyd said.

They advise couples apart to try to communicate daily if possible, even if it’s just an “I love you” in an e-mail or a few sentences in a letter. The Pools said it’s also important to avoid talking negatively, and to stay positive.

“You just do not put someone that is already in harms way in a position of concern and worry when they can’t do anything about it,” Carol said.

With limited time, Dianna and David communicate just as the Pools advise. They care more about how the other one is doing, and less about things that may be bothering them. Dianna avoids bringing up things that make David upset. She said she knows David doesn’t tell her everything either, because he can’t, or because doesn’t want to scare her.

Still, she worries. The hardest time was when she didn’t hear from him for three weeks.

“Then you start worrying and start making things up in your head like what if .”

Making it through

Dianna has received support from her family, but also from the wives at her church who have husbands in Iraq. They meet about twice a month to encourage each other.

“They’ve probably been the biggest (support) because they’ve gone through everything,” Dianna said.

Her biggest fear is that David will be injured, but Dianna said being a Christian gives her strength and comfort. Knowing “if he were to die that I would be able to see him again” brings her a lot of peace.

She tries to stay busy to keep her mind off any fear. She hangs out with friends, watches movies and does lots of homework to keep up with her 14-credit course load.

“She’s been using whatever she’s feeling constructively,” Ashley said. “She’s been putting it toward school and focusing on things she needs to get done.”

Dianna sent David a Valentine’s Day card, but the fact that they won’t spend the holiday together doesn’t bother her that much. They’ve actually never spent Valentine’s Day together; last Feb. 14, David was training out of state.

Lloyd and Carol don’t think couples should be moping about missing holidays either.

Lloyd said, “We’re going to be apart, so suck it up, that’s the way it’s going to be.” Carol added, “Here’s a straw.”

His absence, not the holiday, is hard for Dianna, but she believes their marriage will grow from the stressful and intense experience.

“We’ll be able to get through anything,” Dianna said. “Little problems are just going to be like whatever, it doesn’t matter.”