“You’ll need to hold on tighter than that.” That was the first full English sentence my husband ever said to me. It was June 1999 and I was an 18-year-old American foreign exchange student in Germany.
It was my second evening there and a group of us were heading out into the city on mopeds. Martin had a two-seater, so I was paired with him. He was leaning against a wall with the others, waiting for everyone to head out, and I noticed he was cute. Really, really cute. So, when my exchange partner directed me over to Martin’s bike, I felt myself blush. I hadn’t been on a moped, or a motorcycle, but I watched the others and figured I could at least pretend I knew what I was doing. I grabbed the helmet he handed me and put it on and climbed onto the back seat leaning forward into him, my arms resting cautiously on his sides. This, apparently, was not right. “You will need to hold on, like this,” he said with his thick accent, taking my arms and wrapping them around his chest. I was sure he could feel my heart pounding, but I did as I was told.
How crazy was it to be 18 years old in a foreign country, wrapped tightly around this gorgeous European while zipping over cobblestone streets to a medieval castle to watch the sunset over the city? I was enchanted. Later that night, we went to a party. At first, we were part of the crowd. He spoke some English. I tried to speak German. We laughed a lot as we stumbled over the language. Eventually, we started making sense to each other. Hours later, we realized everyone had abandoned us; we were oblivious. I told him I planned to enlist in the Air Force to be a military journalist, hopefully stationed in Germany. We agreed to stay in touch. There was just this insane feeling we would end up together.
One year to the day we met, I arrived at Ramstein Air Base, Germany for my first duty station as an Air Force journalist. By then, Martin was a tank commander in the German Army. For the next two years, we met up in places like Paris, Salzburg, Cologne, and little villages in between. I gave him tours of the air base if he was in town; he had his battalion sing Happy Birthday to me during one of their banquets. When my orders to leave for Italy arrived in 2002, we married in a chapel we had passed that first night on his moped.
He left his German military career to follow me to Italy, where our first daughter was born in 2003. We’ve since moved here to DC and welcomed another daughter in 2008. It’s been almost 11 years since that romantic night in Nuremberg, and he still makes me swoon.
Julie Weckerlein is still living the fairy tale with Martin, her husband of eight years. In 2001, she started a blog about their life together and never stopped, documenting their time as a military couple in Europe, the births of their daughters, her deployment as a combat correspondent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and now her life as a work-at-home mom in Northern Virginia. After serving in the US Air Force for 9 years as a military writer and photographer, she is now the owner of 365 Memories Photography (365memories.com) and loves every minute of it. You can find Julie and Martin’s blogs at julieandmartin.com and julieandmartinsblog.blogspot.com