Before I left the United States to go to Korea, my first sergeant and commander joked that I’d be married when I returned. Today is September 11, 2008. I asked Jisu to marry me a month and two days ago.

It was a Friday night down in Seoul in a bar near where Jisu lives. Somehow the conversation turned to what might happen when I have to leave the country. We both knew when we started dating that this time would come, that we’d eventually have to come to grips with our future, together. Let me back up.

In 2003 after I had enlisted, that is, signed the papers, and was awaiting a ship date, there was a girl I had liked that I never pursued because I knew I was leaving for the Army. I kicked myself later for my actions, and the lesson I learned was, “seize the day.” Before her, I had a short-lived relationship that dwelt upon me virtually idolizing her, and ultimately getting shit upon. The moral of the story: don’t put them on pedestals. Before that – and maybe I’m skipping, but it doesn’t matter because I’m where I am today – a failed relationship lasting almost fourteen months taught me to take care of myself first before attending to the needs of others.

Back in February when we met at the hash, I noticed her friendly attitude and love of Miller Lite. In March, I discovered her sense of humor and kindness of heart, all the while trying to get her to hang out. When we started dating later that month, I found out she had said a final good-bye to a three-year boyfriend in order to be with me. “I know what I want,” she assured me. I think she could sense I wasn’t fooling around, either.

Fast-forward to a month and two days ago in that bar, I knew she was the one. I could look at that face every second of every day for the rest of my life, and although I’d have to blink once in a while and take occasional naps, I’d never grow tired of it. Even so, seeing her with my eyes is fiddlesticks compared to the richness of her character and warmth and love. And so I came to the conclusion that I could never live without her, and it boggles my mind to think, how did I even exist before now?

So when we reached a consensus on this, I asked her if I could maybe borrow a ring of hers, one that preferably fits her left ring finger, or did she want to go ring shopping sometime? I was amazed at myself how easily the words spewed forth from my lips, and I immediately questioned myself, “did I just say that?” My thoughts were quickly silenced when I saw the look on her face, and a clear drop emerge from the corner of her eye as her face lit up, realizing what I had inferred.

She left the design business up to me.

The next day she visited me at Camp Hovey, and I couldn’t wait any longer. Even without a ring to give, I got on two knees and asked her to marry me with only an intangible verbal assurance to make good on my promise. She said yes, but I had to ask twice more as I held her, just to make sure.

On August 29, I finally put a ring on her finger. Everything she does, every little hint of her existence on this earth only deepens my love and affection for her. Even at Bennigan’s the other night for dinner, when she said, “when we get married, you know, some days, you will hate me,” honestly, it only makes me want to marry her more.

I can’t help but sometimes ponder over every little circumstance and decision in my life that has brought me to this moment, here, twenty seven years in the making. Countless, infinite little personal “transactions” were made over the course of my life, shaping my person, character, and motivation, carrying me to where I am today.

When my grandfather saw a picture of the two of us on Jeju, he couldn’t pry his eyes away. He remarked, “I think God sent Erich to Korea just so he could meet this girl.”

I couldn’t agree more.