AUBURN – The first time Army Sgt. Tim Verreault saw the woman who would become his wife, he rolled his eyes and thought, “Ohhh, another private.”

He and Jessica were stationed at Fort Gordon, Ga., in 2004. She was a newly arrived private who needed to be shown around the base. Tim was assigned to be her guide, but he wasn’t thrilled because privates are more work, he said. “They don’t know the ropes. I might be personally responsible for their behavior.”

But they became friends. He was impressed by how serious and intelligent she was. He grew on her. “I couldn’t get him off my mind,” said Jessica, 25, who is from Michigan. “It made me crazy because I kept saying, ‘I don’t need this right now.’ “

His military nursing school ended before hers. He came back to Maine, when both admitted they were in love. “I asked her to come up,” said Tim, 31, who grew up in Auburn and graduated from Edward Little High School.

When her schooling was over, she moved to Maine and transferred to his unit, the 399th Combat Support Hospital based in Auburn.

By the next year he was planning to propose. “We knew we were going to Iraq. I couldn’t let her go over there without being my wife and having that commitment.”

He took her to dinner and gave her a necklace, hoping she’d think that’s all she was getting. Then outside the car he knelt, offered her a ring and asked her to marry him. “I started squeaking,” she said, too choked up to talk.

They married on April 8, 2006, at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston. Some businesses found out the couple was headed to Iraq and gave them cost reductions. “At the reception the DJ called us out,” she said. “We danced to ‘Proud to be an American.'” There weren’t many dry eyes.

Two months later they left for training. By October they were in Iraq, nurses with the 399th.

Although newlyweds, they did not hug or kiss in public. Soldiers noticed they had the same names and assumed they were cousins or brother and sister. “We were professionals in uniform,” Tim said. If they were affectionate, that would make others miss their spouses more, he said.

Both said they worked well together, and serving in Iraq made them closer. When soldiers they were working to save died, they didn’t talk about it. They didn’t have to. They understood.

“All it took was a hug for me to regain my composure and to go back and finish the job,” she said.

Tim said he could not have worked with Jessica in Iraq if their jobs were more dangerous. “He said if we got a mission to go off our base he would, to protect me, tie me to a tent pole,” she said with a laugh. It was a joke, she said. “He knew that if it was expected of me, I’d go out and do my best, that I am a soldier as well as his wife.”

Despite the toll a military life can have on a marriage, they’re confident about their future together. They understand the obligations. Some girlfriends get mad at their Army boyfriends for leaving for duty. “They say, ‘Just tell them you don’t want to go,'” he said. “She knows if I don’t go, the sheriff shows up at my door.'”

Home from Iraq since Oct. 1, they’re enjoying simple things – dinner, a movie, reading on the couch.

She’s planning to return to civilian life as a nurse. He’s attending Lewiston-Auburn College to get a four-year nursing degree. Afterward, he intends to return to active duty in the Army.

She said he adds strength to her life. “I hate to sound corny, but he fills me out.”

Once he met her, “I knew that I didn’t want to be married to anybody else,” Tim said. “I didn’t want to spend my life with anybody else.”

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