CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, NM, UNITED STATES
*This feature is the third in a series highlighting exceptional spouses at Cannon.
Six years after Christine Schwar and Vincent Mann's week-long, whirlwind romance came to a tragic end, Jessica Mann broke the cardinal rule of girlhood when she began dating her best friend's former flame, who had previously bore a striking resemblance to one Eddie Munster.
In a pleasant turn of events, the couple was met with acceptance rather than expulsion, and together they began a journey that would lead them to Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., and a new way of life.
"We met on the playground in the 6th-grade," Mann said. "I didn't really think he was cute because at the time, he was just a typical boy who chased girls and played with dirt."
"We had classes together throughout middle school," Mann continued, "but it wasn't until we sat next to each other in 12th-grade English that we really connected. After I let him copy my Harry Potter book report, we became close friends."
The plagiarized assignment acted as a catalyst for the pair and soon they were set to attend senior prom together.
"Since the dance we have been inseparable," Mann said. "After we started dating that year, I knew he was the one. I knew there were only two options after Vinnie joined the Air Force: get married and embrace the military lifestyle, or end the relationship. I chose love, and we were married on the exact day of our four-year high school anniversary."
Her husband's decision to enlist in the Air Force introduced challenges the couple had never before faced. Military basic training limited their communication, technical school imposed an extended separation, and when they received orders to the 27th Special Operations Wing, Mann came face to face with a reality that rendered her career aspirations unattainable.
"Vinnie's decision to enlist in the military hugely impacted my life and the path I thought I was going to take," Mann said. "I was concerned when we received orders to Cannon because there are no opportunities here to work in my desired career field."
"I graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2010," Mann continued. "I majored in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Microbiology. Before the military was a factor, I planned to find work as an enologist at a winery in Napa, Calif., or a scientist at a biotechnology company. After being stationed in Clovis, I had to go back to school to accommodate my new circumstances."
Basing her decision on the fact that no matter where the military may send them, there will always be a hospital, Mann made the decision to pursue a career in the medical field.
Now in her second semester of nursing school at Clovis Community College, Mann is pulling double duty. In addition to fulfilling her own degree requirements, the gifted mathematician is also an instructor at CCC, helping students master mathematical concepts to earn their GED.
"I enjoy teaching at the college," Mann said. "Higher education is in my future and after I become a nurse and gain valuable experience, I would like to earn my master's degree in nursing so that I can teach others."
In spite of her workload, Mann never fails to make time for the simple things, like strengthening her relationship with her partner in crime.
"It's extremely difficult to be a spouse, teacher and student," Mann said. "But we have a tradition - no matter what is going on in our hectic lives, Vinnie and I take our dog for a walk every night and share the good and bad things that happened that day."
Despite the long road ahead, Mann remains focused on the endgame, drawing inspiration from a strong sense of self and a deep-rooted confidence in her ability to succeed.
"I want to make a name for myself," she said. "I want to be known for my own accomplishments, not the accomplishments of my husband. I want my husband and family to be as proud of me as I am of them."
When asked about the stereotype associated with being a military spouse, Mann shrugs it off without a second thought.
"Marrying into the military is such an honor," Mann said. "I am proud to say that my husband is in the Air Force. The negative perception of military spouses does not offend me because I am not defined by it."
"Military spouses are put through the wringer mentally," she continued. "We relocate whenever our spouse is called away, we maintain a household, care for our family, and many of us work. Most importantly, we are a constant support system for our spouses - we give them a reason to come home."
Looking back, Mann acknowledges that like everything in life, there are positives and negatives associated with the military lifestyle. Because hindsight is 20/20, the 25 year old can reflect on the events of the past few years with absolute clarity.
"I would have loved to live near my family and pursue a career in enology because that's my passion," Mann said. "But at the end of the day, even the greatest career cannot compete with true love."
||CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, NM, US
This work, More than meets the eye: Marriage, math, medicine, by SSgt Whitney Amstutz, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.