By LINDA MESSMER
Tammy Boor Ninesling and her husband Stephen had their 11th wedding anniversary Oct. 10. But they didn't celebrate this one together. Tammy was at home with the couples three children in Brazil and Steve was in Kuwait.
Recently Tammy was remembering how they first met. They shared some classes at Indiana State University, both majoring in safety management at the time.
Steve was in the Indiana National Guard. Tammy was a member of the Army Reserve. Neither was aware of the others military attachment.
One day, during a class break, the two were among a group just standing around chatting while killing time. Steve, jokingly, made what Tammy perceived as a rather macho comment. Playfully, she responded that he'd better watch out or she'd get him with her M-16.
"Oh, sure," he came back. "You don't even know what an M-16 is."
Tammy immediately let him know that she was in the Army Reserve and not only knew what it was, she also knew how to use one. Surprised, Steve told Tammy of his military commitment. The two laughed, sharing a new respect for each other, and that began a friendship that culminated in their marriage within a year.
They eventually settled in Brazil, Tammy's home town, to raise their three children, Zachary, 10, Jacob, 9, and Jessica, 8. Steve got a job at the Terre Haute Federal Prison. Tammy is a licensed practical nurse at Intrepid Healthcare. Plus both continued their military attachments.
A high energy person with many interests, Tammy had a passion for flowers and plants. Starting four or five years ago, every October, Steve would send her a big fresh fall floral bouquet to decorate the dining table and commemorate their anniversary.
But things were different this year. On Dec. 31, 2002, Steve was called up and sent to Camp Atterbury. His unit was activated Feb. 19 and 2nd Lt. Stephen Ninesling, a medical officer with the HHC 1-152, was sent to Kuwait.
"I certainly didn't expect anything for our anniversary this year," Tammy said. "We'd talked on the phone and made plans to celebrate our 11th anniversary when he got home even though we had no idea when that would be."
After 10 months, Tammy missed Steve terribly. But with taking care of the kids, working, meeting her own military obligations, selling their house and moving to the new one, she was too busy to let her emotions show.
Tammy was brought to tears, however, when, on the morning of Oct. 10, she opened her door to Bonnie Dalton, from Sugar 'N Spice floral shop, carrying not just one but two floral arrangements from Steve.
Steve had placed a call to Vickie Mace, owner of the business, the day before.
"He said, 'I'd like to place an order. I'm calling from Kuwait,'" Vickie explained. "And I said, Oh, no you're not."
Vickie thought the man on the other end of the line was playing a joke on her. When he told her his battalion and where he was stationed, she started to believe.
He wasn't sure what to order, Vickie said. He told her he wanted some fresh, fall flowers but his wife also loved plants, any kind of plant. He didn't know which to send.
"I know it's hard being over there away for your family," Vickie told him. "I want to thank you and let you know we're so grateful to you and all the other soldiers fighting to protect us. Since you're in the military and protecting our country, I'll fix you up real nice. How about if we just send her one of each?"
Steve agreed but couldn't determine just what to send. Vickie told him not to worry, she'd take good care of him."
Knowing only that it was the 11th anniversary, Vickie fixed up a large bouquet of mixed fall flowers including sunflowers, liatris, statice and lemonium. Then she topped it off with 11 yellow roses. Eleven was for each year they'd been married and the yellow represented the military.
For the plant, Vickie picked out a large blooming Peace Lilly in hopes that peace would prevail and all the soldiers could soon come home.
"I was shocked, surprised and excited," Tammy said with tears welling in her eyes just recalling the moment. "I was overwhelmed emotionally, really. They were just gorgeous."
Tammy was still beaming when Steve called to see if the flowers had arrived.
"He was so happy when I told him about them," Tammy said. "Steve had been feeling down. He said the soldiers sometimes think they're forgotten about by the people back home. When Vickie thanked him for serving and protecting the country and that she'd fix him up real nice, it really picked up his spirits.
"Vickie is a wonderful lady," Tammy continued. "You could tell those flowers were made by someone who really cared and wanted someone to feel special.
"And I am so blessed to have a husband who can have so much else on his mind while in Kuwait serving our country and still be able to remember our special day."