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Celebrating five years of marriage in the desert

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ashley Mikaio, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs Office

It’s fall of 2016 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, in the middle of the dining facility. A young Senior Airman Ashley Robinson goes up to an unknowing Staff Sgt. Vashard Armand to ask him about a friend on base. Vashard, not knowing who Ashley was talking about, answered her question and waved her off. Ashley, thinking nothing of the interaction, goes about her day, later that night running into none other than Vashard hanging out with friends. After a couple hours of talking, they realized they had many friends in common throughout the Air Force and had plenty in common themselves. After that night, one was rarely seen without the other.

Almost six years later Staff Sgt. Ashley Armand, readiness manager for the 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, and Tech. Sgt. Vashard Armand, NCOIC of installation area access for the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, are married with a one-year-old, and find themselves celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary on deployment together at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, September 6, 2022.

“In all honesty I thought after we left, I’d probably never see her again,” Vashard recalled. “But when I was on rest and recuperation leave, she was like ‘Hey I’m going to come visit you okay?’ and sure enough she asked what airport she should fly into and showed up. She met my parents and no one had ever met them before,” he said with a serious tone.

After their deployment, Vashard and Ashley started dating long distance, eventually deciding they’d had enough of not seeing each other every day. The distance ultimately encouraged them to tie the knot.

“We spoke every day and it was just weird not seeing her every day. You get used to someone being there,” Vashard said.

After a few years and a couple more deployments between them, Ashley and Vashard welcomed a baby girl, Ayden, into the world. After growing up in a military family herself, they came to the conclusion that the possibility of both being deployed one after the other and spending a year apart, was too great a risk for their family. They decided to get in the same deployment window so that when they would eventually deploy again, they’d go at the same time and only spend six months apart from each other and their daughter.

After her husband was tasked for a deployment to Kuwait, Ashley went to her leadership with a request.

“I went to my commander and I let her know ‘My husband is going to this location and you have these spots available, I’d be more than willing to take one of those and try to be on the same deployment as him,” Ashley reflected. “And she was like, ‘Absolutely! If I can keep a family tighter, why not?’”

While it’s great for the Armands’ to have a piece of home with them in the desert, they struggle with missing their daughter as new parents.

“This is our first time leaving our one-year-old,” Ashley said hesitantly. “Granted, she’s with people that she knows and she’s super happy and loves them. But being a brand-new mom, leaving was hard.”

Military service comes with its up and downs like any other job or aspect of life. Sharing your life with someone who is also serving in the military can come with a little more grace and understanding as it has for Ashley and Vashard.

“Another good thing is we both get it. When taskings come down or when certain deployments or trainings come up, we know what we signed up for,” Ashley explained. “We understand.”

As Ashely and Vashard lovingly reflected on their time together over the last six years and how they ended up celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary, a common factor was hoping their daughter understands their service.

“I want her to look at our service and understand that we did this for her,” Vashard said passionately.

Some may think celebrating a wedding anniversary while on deployment would be a negative thing, but after spending time with Ashley and Vashard, it’s clear through their looks and laughter that they are just thankful to be together during this time.