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“Despite the distance, we have everything we could need: faith, family, love and most of all, each other.”
Meet Jena. Forgive me if I get emotional throughout this post…spoiler alert, Jena Haney is indeed related to me. My loving, patient, beautiful sister-in-law is a teacher to the bright, young minds in Jacksonville. She is a saint because she is married to my brother-in-law, Jeremy…I kid…kinda!
Jena and I have been blessed to have each other so close (three miles to be exact!). When Jeremy was getting orders, he was initially told that he would be heading to Okinawa. This was while they were engaged, Jena was in graduate school in Charlotte, and Jeremy was finishing up his training to become an Osprey pilot. At the last minute, someone offered to switch with them and they were able to stay at Lejeune. Just two months later, we also received orders to Lejeune and would be reunited!
Jena is not the type to sit with idle time on her hands though. While she was at graduate school, she ran indoor track with her remaining season of NCAA eligibility, then continued to coach the cross country and track teams the rest of her time there. She was juggling coaching, classes, a long-distance relationship, and wedding planning. One cool, October Friday night, she opened her front door and found her fiancé on her front steps with flowers. Her immediate reaction (in true military spouse fashion): “What are you about to tell me?” That was the night she found out he was going to be deploying in January before their May wedding. Suddenly they had to decide whether to move up their wedding before the deployment or postpone it until after he returned.
Within days, every vendor had agreed to change their May 23rd wedding to December 19th. We celebrated their marriage before Jeremy departed, and they spent their first seven months as even longer distance newlyweds.
This is just one of the obstacles they have overcome (before they were even married, of course). Unfortunately, Jena and I have had similar experiences while trying to start a family. Infertility is a roller coaster of emotions that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but I was very thankful to be on that roller coaster with someone who understood exactly what I was going through. They have been trying for almost two years to start a family…enduring infertility tests (which are way more painful that you would think), trying fertility enhancements and drugs, adjusting lifestyles, and looking for answers to seemingly easy questions, but only being answered with more question marks. Finally, Jena was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), but still didn’t receive many answers or assistance from the doctors she was seeing.
Despite all of that, she continues to show up to her classroom full of smiling, rambunctious, snaggle-toothed first graders and gives them her all every single day. Within just two years of being at Bell Fork Elementary, she has become a beloved teacher from the students, parents, and administration. At the beginning of this year she raised money to purchase new independent reading books for her class. She used the scores from each student’s Kindergarten report to make sure she had specific reading material for the level for each individual student. She raised $400 within days for this project. Some people are meant to be teachers, nurturers, cultivators—Jena is one of those people. If you have a baby at Bell Fork Elementary, request Mrs. Haney. You won’t regret it.
Jena contributes much of her patience and hope to her faith in the Lord. Her strength and faith leave me in awe. She may say I am her military spouse role model, but she is equally mine.
Please keep my brother- and sister-in-law in your thoughts and prayers as they continue on their path to starting their family and prepare for their second deployment.
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