‘It was all about getting to know one another’
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.”
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.