It all started at the Skyland Drive-In
Robert and Sandy met in 1968 in the parking lot of a very important restaurant in Hendersonville, NC – the Skyland Drive-In.
Sandy was with her friends when Robert came around in his 1954 car. A car that was painted green with red fenders, and according to Sandy the car did not impress her one bit. She remembers that he parked so his driver window was next to her passenger window and that he looked over and said, “Hello, baby”.
When Robert asked if he could drive her home, Sandy said ‘Sure’ but did not tell him that she was only 16 and not allowed to date yet. She got in the car with him and as they’re sitting in the car they see this rather large man coming towards them across the parking lot – Sandy’s brother!
Sandy said “Let me do the talking”. When John, Sandy’s brother, came up to the window she introduced him to Robert and told him that she had gone to school with Robert. Luckily, John didn’t catch on that Sandy didn’t pronounce Robert’s last name correctly, and John let Robert drive Sandy home.However, he followed them the whole way.
Robert and Sandy began dating after their initial meeting at the drive-in. Sandy recalls that they had a wonderful dating experience and that they both quickly knew that they were #1 in each other’s lives.
Robert and Sandy were married on March 8th, 1968. Sandy was between her junior and senior years of high school. Heer mom agreed she would only sign the marriage papers if Robert promised that he would make sure Sandy would graduate from high school. Sandy recalls that her parents always taught her and her siblings to first, love the lord, and to second, love each other. Robert and Sandy went into their marriage with the same values.
Robert was scheduled to be shipped out shortly after their wedding, so Sandy went with him to California and stayed for about 2 months until his ship pulled out. As soon as his ship left for Vietnam, she got on a plane and went back to Hendersonville. Sandy graduated high school with the rest of her class and their son was born 2 weeks later.
While Robert was deployed, the Miami Herald wrote that the USS New Jersey, which was Robert’s ship, had been hit, though Sandy never got official word. For a while she had to just believe that it was hit and hope and pray that Robert was okay. Their son Scott was 6 months old when Robert came home for good and about 9 months later their daughter was born.
Family is Everything
Robert and Sandy have been married for 54 wonderful years, so wonderful that Sandy says that she would marry Robert again in a heartbeat. They are different but compatible in so many ways which has allowed them the space and opportunity to grow independently and together throughout their marriage. They are still loving each other and learning from each each other every day.
Sandy remembers being 17 with two babies, working hard to care for her children while finishing school and praying that her husband was safe overseas – but she wouldn’t change a thing. Sandy credits her incredible support system for her strength during Robert’s deployment and their successful marriage. She had her own family as well as a church family. Everyone always made sure that she was taken care of.
They lived in a 900 sq ft house in their hometown for 47 years. In this home they grew up while they raised their babies, after all, Robert was only 21 and Sandy 17 when they first got together. They vowed to keep each other first and always be respectful of each other’s families. Sandy even jokes that her parents loved Robert more than they loved her.
They taught their children to always love, thank, and trust the Lord and to remain devoted to their relationships. These lessons have proven to be so beneficial to them. About 25 years into their marriage, Robert opened the car door for Sandy when they arrived at the supermarket. After shopping, the cashier at their checkout line commented on how she saw Robert open the door for Sandy from the window and how gallant Robert was for still performing this simple act so many years into their marriage and in a time where actions like that are not as common as they once were.
Recently, Robert and Sandy were able to move into a much larger home with their daughter. They both have difficulty with mobility so they needed enough room for both motorized wheelchairs. Additionally, several years ago Robert was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, among other health complications, so they wanted to be able to have their daughter available to help with caring for Robert. Despite the physical hardships, Robert has the sweetest testimony about how good God has been to them.
Words of Wisdom
While I spoke with Sandy she mentioned so many life lessons and pieces of advice that time and again have been proven to benefit the success of relationships, both friendly and intimate, military and civilian.
Sandy’s Words of Wisdom:
Keep God first, always
Be devoted to each other – this includes respect, patience, understanding, trust, selflessness, and love
Promise to never tear down each other’s families – you married that family when you married your spouse
Agree to always have each other’s back
Never tear each other down in front of company
Don’t attack each other, attack the problem
A very special thank you to Mr. Claude Schmid, founder of Veteran’s Last Patrol (VLP) for allowing me the opportunity to speak with Sandy. Robert is a veteran that VLP graciously supports in numerous ways, even granting his final wish of a fishing trip in the mountains of North Carolina. After various schedule changes due to weather and health, VLP was able to bring Robert and Sandy into Pisgah Forest with help from a local fishing guides.
Military Marriage Day
This blog is part of a feature that presents the Love Notes Contest, which showcases the love stories of veterans and active duty service members in honor of Military Marriage Day (August 14th). The Love Notes Contest is hosted by Military Marriage Day in partnership with IML’s Veteran Pen Pal Project, which asks both prior and current military service members to share their military love story for a chance to be featured during the Military Marriage Day celebration on August 14th.
Do you have a military love story that you would like to share?
Your story could be featured during the Military Marriage Day virtual celebration and here on the It’s a Military Life blog!