ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:
Let's hear now from StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative, recording the stories of post-9/11 service members and their families. Marine Sergeant Anny and Staff Sergeant Jonny Pena met while stationed in Arizona. Two years later, they got married. Here they talk about the challenges they faced as a military couple and the impact of Jonny's deployment to Afghanistan on their marriage.
STAFF SERGEANT JONNY PENA: How did you feel when I volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan?
MARINE SERGEANT ANNY PENA: It was very upsetting because I had a 3-year-old and a newborn, and part of me felt that you were pretty much walking out on our family.
J. PENA: This was a hard decision to make, but I couldn't live myself if I had spent almost nine years in the Marine Corps and hadn't done my job.
A. PENA: As a Marine, I could relate to that. But I used to have nightmares that someone would knock on the door with a flag and that's all that I was going to get back. Sometimes you would call me and you'll say, oh, I'm not going to be able to talk for a couple of days. And those couple of days were like, the longest days of my life. The whole time, it's like you sleep with your phone, just waiting for a text or waiting for a call or just anything that lets me know he's still OK, he's coming back.
And then when you came back, it was a huge relief (laughter). But it wasn't the same as before. I remember thinking, my husband stayed in Afghanistan. He never came home.
J. PENA: I remember being at the train station and just an uncontrollable sense of dread and sadness, and not being able to see any good. I couldn't think about my kids. I couldn't think of the fact that somewhere someone loved me. I honestly just felt that life was meaningless, and I don't know, like, I just saw that train come and I felt my body twitch towards it. And I think at that point, you know, I realized that I was lost and I didn't know why. I wish I was that guy that I was before. Maybe, you know, if I had come back the same, things wouldn't have turned out the way they did between you and me.
A. PENA: You know, my love for you was always unconditional. I think that's why we're able to have the good relationship that we have. A lot of guys will get divorced and they move away. You chose to get an apartment within walking distance from us so that you could be there as much as possible. You come twice during the week, have dinner, help with homework. You're a good dad. Despite everything we went through, we still care about each other - maybe not as a married couple, but pretty close. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
WESTERVELT: Anny and Jonny Pena, at StoryCorps in New York City. Their conversation was recorded as part of the StoryCorps Military Voices Initiative. It'll be archived at the Library of Congress. You can record your own StoryCorps interview using the new StoryCorps app. It's at iTunes or at the Android app store.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.