Early commissioning comes as big surprise
For most of their two-year marriage, Thomas and Tenisha Dotstry have lived apart - she at her duty station in Norfolk, Va., and he here at The Citadel where he is enrolled in the Nuclear Seaman to Admiral Commissioning Program.
Birthdays, holidays and other special occasions are shared together if duties and schedules permit. They've been able to see each other just five or so times a year since the wedding in May 2004. Visits are mostly on weekends, which are never long enough and made shorter when 13 hours is spent on the highway coming and going between Charleston and Norfolk.
|ET2 Tenisha Dotstry surprises her husband Thomas Dotstry at his early commissioning. Neither Dotstry nor his classmates knew about the surprise. They thought they were being subjected to a uniform inspection.|
|ET2 Tenisha Dotstry pins her husband's ensign shoulder boards on him at his surprise commissioning April 28.|
|Ensign Thomas Dotstry's first salute as an officer came from his wife, Tenisha, an ET2, on the steps of Jenkins Hall, home to the ROTC detachments at The Citadel.|
It's a lifestyle they anticipated when the met, got engaged and were married while stationed at the Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek. So it was no surprise that Tenisha would have to miss Thomas' officer commissioning ceremony on May 5. Her ship is scheduled for deployment May 2.
That's when Naval ROTC detachment at The Citadel stepped in.
Instructor Lt. Shane Bosse first tried to set up a video hookup between Charleston and Tenisha's ship. But Col. Kevin Frederick, the detachment commander, said security concerns and technical difficulties made that impossible.
"So we did the next best thing," he said. "We brought her here."
On Friday, Thomas thought he and his classmates - who are graduating and will be commissioned May 6 - were being subjected to a rather unusual and very early uniform inspection. It was only after the group of seniors was marched to Jenkins Hall in their "whites" and Frederick called Thomas out of formation that the ruse was revealed.
Out walked Tenisha as Frederick announced that Thomas was going to be commissioned early so she could take part. Thomas thought his wife was in town to drop her car off before shipping out next week.
"I'm absolutely stunned," he said afterward.
Even as his wife pined on his shoulder boards, making him officially an ensign, Thomas still appeared bewildered, surprised and a little speechless.
The couple met while both were stationed at the Naval Weapons Station. Tenisha, an electronics technician second class, said "constant communication" makes the distance between them work. She beamed Friday as she took part in her husband's surprise and pinned on his shoulder boards. She also gave him his first salute as an officer.
"I appreciate everybody's effort in making this happen," Thomas said. "I appreciate my wife supporting me through this separation."
Being apart means they don't argue about little things. What time they have together is too valuable to spend it arguing, Thomas said. "It's not a party, but we make it work."
Frederick said there are many couples just like the Dotstrys serving in the armed forces, putting service above self. And that made it a pleasure to help them share in a special commissioning ceremony.
After a brief visit, Tenisha will head back to Norfolk to prepare for her May 2 deployment. After he finishes his exams and graduates May 6 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, Thomas reports to the Naval Weapons Station for Nuclear Power School for a year.
By the time he finishes nuke school, Tenisha will have wrapped up her Navy service. She plans to get out later this year. When that happens she can finally move home - with her husband.
"Absence really does make the heart grow fonder," Thomas said. "But it will be nice to be together."