‘It was all about get­ting to know one another’

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For sev­eral years, Mary Carter Ja­cocks knew David Junta only as “gym boy.”

Start­ing in 2008, Mary Carter, who was then at­tend­ing the Col­lege of Wil­liam and Mary, and David, at West Point, fre­quented the same gym in Spring­field, Va., over hol­i­day breaks. They’d catch each other’s eye across the weight room, then over the tread­mills. But they never spoke un­til Christ­mas Eve in 2013, af­ter Mary Carter’s older sis­ter in­ter­vened.

While scan­ning pic­tures of a friend on Face­book who also at­tended West Point, Mary Carter leaned in and rec­og­nized the man who had grown to fame in her house­hold as “gym boy.” Her older sis­ter in­sisted that she mes­sage him and clicked the “Add Friend” but­ton her­self. Mary Carter was hit with a pang of anx­i­ety. “What if he thinks, ‘Who is this creepy girl?’ ” she won­dered. But she needn’t have wor­ried — David ended up mes­sag­ing her first.

“I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily think of it as creepy at all,” David says with a laugh. “I just felt bad that I couldn’t rec­og­nize her since we had so many mu­tual friends.”

His first mes­sage read: “I feel bad be­cause I should know you from some­thing,” and they took it from there. Af­ter cross-check­ing their mu­tu­als, they re­al­ized they had run track at ri­val high schools in Spring­field and came to the con­clu­sion that they must have been at the same track meets for years be­fore lin­ger­ing around each other shyly and silently at the gym.

“I re­ally didn’t think he was in­ter­ested. He was ob­vi­ously mes­sag­ing me back, but I was ner­vous be­cause I was putting my­self out on a limb,” re­calls Mary Carter, a first-grade teacher at West Spring­field Ele­men­tary School. “Once we started talk­ing deeper, I re­ally thought he was very smart, but I was try­ing to be cau­tious.”

At the time of their first online chats, David was sta­tioned with the U.S. Army in Hawaii. He had leave com­ing up and was go­ing to visit his par­ents in Spring­field, so he put him­self out on a limb, too, and asked Mary Carter whether she’d like to go on a date in Fe­bru­ary.

“I had a month of field train­ing be­fore my leave where I didn’t have any con­tact with phones, and I def­i­nitely thought by the end of that, Mary Carter would have for­got­ten about me,” says David, an in­fantry pla­toon leader at Fort Lewis in Washington state.

But re­ally, Mary Carter couldn’t stop think­ing about him. On Valen­tine’s Day week­end, he picked her up to go to a sushi res­tau­rant in Old Town Alexandria. For the first time in per­son, they talked about what they wanted out of life and what they wanted, frankly, from a re­la­tion­ship.

“We were in­ten­tional about talk­ing about what was im­por­tant to us,” David says. “We came to­gether af­ter chat­ting around the world, and con­cluded that if we can­not marry one another, we shouldn’t con­tinue to date. We both knew that ‘just talk­ing for fun’ from Hawaii to Vir­ginia is not that fun at all.”

Over the next two weeks of David’s leave, they saw each other ev­ery day, like a dat­ing light­ning round. David met Mary Carter’s par­ents; Mary Carter met his. They were both adamant about their long-dis­tance re­la­tion­ship not be­ing a ca­sual one, so by the time David went back to the Aloha State, they were of­fi­cial — with talk of mar­riage to boot.

The pair spoke ev­ery day by phone and text and even oc­ca­sion­ally sent letters. The two made an ef­fort to see each other ev­ery month, which is when hav­ing a beau in Hawaii be­came a ma­jor perk for Mary Carter.

“I think, to some ex­tent, long dis­tance helped us learn about one another quickly and clearly,” she says. “If we had any dis­agree­ment and David would have to get off the phone or I would have to go to sleep, we would im­me­di­ately try to set­tle things. It helped us learn about how to treat one another and also what the other per­son needs in terms of a re­la­tion­ship.”

The cou­ple even started a two-per­son book club in an ef­fort to stay con­nected. The first book they read to­gether, while shar­ing the Kin­dle app on their mo­bile de­vices, was “The Five Love Lan­guages” by Gary Chap­man, which has quizzes to de­ter­mine how you best re­ceive and give love.

“It was all about get­ting to know one another while si­mul­ta­ne­ously learn­ing to­gether,” David says. “I’d high­light things for her to read, and she’d high­light things for me to fo­cus on.”

By the end of the sum­mer, David and Mary Carter were still on the same page in terms of mar­riage, and over La­bor Day week­end, David took Mary Carter on a hike through Great Falls Park, where he pro­posed. But about the same time, the cou­ple got word that David would be sent to Afghanistan for four months, start­ing in Jan­uary. To celebrate their union be­fore he shipped out, the two de­cided to elope, ex­chang­ing vows be­fore 10 friends in Point De­fi­ance Park in Ta­coma, Wash., in Oc­to­ber.

Three months later, with David in Afghanistan, the two re­booted their book club, read­ing “The Mean­ing of Mar­riage” by Ti­mothy Keller in prepa­ra­tion for their more for­mal cer­e­mony when David was back on Amer­i­can soil.

On June 13, Mary Carter Ja­cocks and David Junta, both 25, wed at Woodlawn Plan­ta­tion in Alexandria in front of more than 200 guests, in­clud­ing Mary Carter’s en­tire first-grade class. At the end of the night, fam­ily mem­bers and friends gath­ered to send the cou­ple off to their hon­ey­moon in Ja­maica not with sparklers or bub­bles, but with glow sticks.

And just like that, “gym boy” be­came “hus­band.”

“We came to­gether af­ter chat­ting around the world, and con­cluded that if we can­not marry one another, we shouldn’t con­tinue to date.”

DAVID JUNTA

PHOTOS BY LEXI VORNBERG PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Mary Carter Ja­cocks and David Junta cel­e­brated their mar­riage June 13 atWood­lawn Plan­ta­tion in Alexandria in front of more than 200 guests, in­clud­ingMary Carter’s en­tire first-grade class. The pair had eloped in Oc­to­ber be­fore David was sent to Afghanistan for four months.

Mary Carter and David, both 25, were en­gaged over La­bor Day week­end dur­ing a hike at Great Falls Park. They at­tended ri­val high schools in Spring­field, Va., but met years later.

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