Eric and Tinsley

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Eric and I met through mutual friends and were casual acquaintances for several years. In July of 2010, Eric was deployed to Afghanistan. We lost touch until his “Welcome Home Party” in July of 2011. We were seeing other people at the time but remained friends. As the months passed, we both became single, and we enjoyed spending time together with friends. In January of 2012, Eric moved to Alabama to go to flight school at Fort Rucker. A few weeks after his departure, a group of us ran a 5K, “A Hero’s Run”, in honor of Eric’s service in Afghanistan. After this, we began contacting each other more frequently. In March of 2012, Eric came home for his first visit since leaving for flight school. One night during his visit, Eric asked if I would go with him on a double date so he wouldn’t have to be the third wheel. As the plans for the evening progressed, Eric called back and said that the couple could no longer go, but that the two of us should still go to dinner. Being a nervous girl who realized this could mean more than friendship, I avoided his calls and the date didn’t happen.

I just knew that this meant my chances with Eric were over. He left the next day to return to flight school where he was unable to communicate for a few weeks. As soon as this portion of his training ended, I was relieved to receive calls and texts from him again. During the next four months we spent many hours on the phone getting to know each other better. When Eric was finally finished with all of his training and able to come home, we had our first official date on July 7, 2012. The following months were spent making countless trips to and from Alabama. Somewhere among the millions of letters mailed, packages sent, phone calls made, and flowers delivered (Eric is a MAJOR romantic), we decided to start a relationship. It was a long year but we both decided that long distance relationships really helped with communication, something we had both struggled with in the past.

We learned so much about life together and grew together over the course of the year. On his trips home, Eric spent Thanksgiving with my family and we were back and forth between families for Christmas. I went to Alabama in May of 2013 to proudly watch Eric receive his wings and graduate from Flight School. He returned to Greenville, SC where we were finally able to date in the same city. We had been talking about getting married for a few months, but I had no clue when an engagement would happen. Eric is so romantic and was always planning fun and exciting dates, most of which were surprises, so I just expected that our proposal would occur on one of our dates.

Meanwhile, Eric had to report to McEntire Air Base in Eastover for several weeks. He was staying at my parents’ home in Chapin during the week as it was closer to the base. After spending a fun weekend in Greenville, Eric told me on Monday that he was headed back to Chapin because he had to fly that afternoon. I sent him off to work and got ready to go to a “cookout” with my best friend, Ali. She had to talk me into going with her and even bribed me with the fact that she was sharing “BIG” news that night with everyone at the” cookout”. I was convinced she was pregnant so I was excited to go with her. When Ali picked me up, I begged her for the news but she just giggled and drove us out to the country. As soon as we arrived at our destination, she asked me to grab something from her glove compartment. I opened it and immediately saw an envelope that said “Tins” in Eric’s handwriting.

At this point I was very confused! I couldn’t understand why she would have a letter for me from Eric. I tore open the envelope and read the most heartfelt letter about the place Ali was taking me. He explained that this was the land where he spent a lot of time growing up and it held many special memories for him. He wanted to share this special place with me. I finished the letter and finally realized that this was not about Ali’s “BIG news” after all. This was my BIG news!!!

We made our way up the driveway and I saw my Eric standing in front of the most gorgeous home out in the country. It was like a dream!!! I got out of the car and walked towards Eric, who was supposed to be at work! He sure fooled me! He poured his heart out, got on one knee, and asked me to marry him. After we hugged and kissed and giggled with excitement, I realized that my great friend (who is also a professional photographer) was hiding in the bushes taking pictures of the whole thing.

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I heard shouts and cheering from above and looked up to see our friends and family standing on the second floor balcony. I was thrilled by Eric’s BEST “surprise” ever! As we began our happy celebration, we were joined by more family and friends.

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We spent the evening sharing dinner, making toasts, and making more memories at such a special home. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect night to begin the rest of my life.

Photos by Christine LeGrand Photo