CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
She couldn’t stop smiling at him, even when he wasn’t looking. He was tangled up in her bubbly cheerful personality and smiled at her every time she spoke to him.
Both of them were soaking up the last few moments together before they’d go their separate ways again. They couldn’t even kiss or hold each other’s hand, much less hug. But when the crowd left, she snuck in a kiss on his cheek, and all he could do was sigh.
Nothing could keep the couple apart. Not even a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, each at a different camp in Helmand province.
Staff Sgt. Jonadam Costilloe, currently assigned as the I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) air liaison at Camp Dwyer, reunited with his wife of five months, Sgt. Jennifer Estrada, for his promotion ceremony held at Camp Leatherneck, July 1.
"We’re very fortunate to have commands and leaders who allowed us to be together for his promotion," said Estrada, with the female engagement team, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines Regiment. "We haven’t seen each other since we arrived in Afghanistan and it’s very hard on the both of us."
Costilloe and Estrada, both 27 years old, met while on active duty, stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., working in motor transportation.
"She couldn’t stand me," laughed Costilloe, from Norman, Okla. "She was the dispatcher, and I could never get my tickets filled out correctly."
"I held remediation classes almost every day with him," Estrada said.
"That helped me in the end because I was able to get your attention," said Costilloe, as he smiled at his wife.
This is the couple’s third deployment. Their first two deployments placed them on the same camp. When their active duty time in the Marine Corps ended, the couple moved to Estrada’s hometown of Grand Junction, Colo., and were married on Feb. 2, 2010. After spending a few months out of the ranks, the couple decided to join the reserves. They deployed to Afghanistan this spring and are scheduled to return home in the fall.
But for now, the newlyweds remain separated by southern Afghanistan desert. Costilloe worries constantly about his wife, who finds herself interacting with local Afghan women as part of her job on the female engagement team.
"There’s quite a bit of anxiety," said Costilloe. "The FET program, they’re doing something female Marines never had the privilege of doing. I sit on the flight line and my wife is out winning the war."
The couple handles the separation as best as possible, considering the circumstances. Communication via phone or e-mail is minimal with very little privacy. This rare opportunity to see her husband and pin staff sergeant chevrons onto his uniform was a morale boost for the two.
"We’ll be going home soon," said Estrada. "Not many couples have that luck, which makes us more thankful. Now we’ll think about what’s in store for us back home. We’re looking forward to starting a family finally."
After the ceremony, Estrada and her groom roamed the camp in search for a place to sit and talk, but the scorching temperatures prevented them from going too far. They settled for the dining hall, but had to leave once the facility was packed with personnel looking for seats during lunch and dinner. Even though they’re married, they couldn’t rest inside a tent due to camp rules and regulations. So they roamed, and talked and they were content with the few moments they had together.