The story of Marcus and Janice Stennis goes from doorstep to deployment By Rebecca Brockman
Reminiscent of a WWII love story, Janice and Marcus Stennis' relationship was plagued by love, war, and distance. The young Arkansas couple met through Marcus' cousin, who was also friends with Janice. Marcus told his cousin he was looking for a "good girl" to settle down with. The first meeting that both Marcus and Janice remember happened in 2003. Janice insists that she met Marcus at a ball three years prior. She laughs as she tells the story and does not know why Marcus forgets their first meeting.
Yet, fate brought them together again, this time at Janice's door. Marcus was home for his two-week leave from the Army and decided to drop by and introduce himself to Janice.
"I was shocked when he came to my door," Janice says with a shy smile. He was dressed in his uniform and patiently waited with his cousin for admittance inside. The first introductions coincided with Marcus' first tour of Iraq. According to Janice, the couple talked frequently after the doorstep meeting.
Shortly after, Marcus returned to Iraq. Needless to say, sparks flew during the initial meeting and Marcus left Arkansas with a lot on his mind and heart. Correspondence via letters, cards, and emails became the couple's only source of communication. "Then the phone calls started," recalled Janice. She also admitted to being "glued to her Internet" while Marcus was in Iraq. She credits her family and friends for helping her through the lonely days and nights. "I had a co-worker that asked about Marcus every single day," Janice said. Although she was only 18 at the time, Janice remained faithful.
In 2005, Marcus completed his second tour in Iraq. A year later, in January, Marcus proposed. "I thought he was joking, I laughed," Janice said when recounting the proposal. Joking around is something the couple enjoys and she thought it was another funny moment. Marcus put the ring in a box, wrapped in a box and put it another variety of bigger boxes. When the ring on her finger became a reality, Janice said "yes." After seeing his devotion to his country and to God, Janice "just knew" that he was the person for her.
Around the time of the engagement, President Bush announced that he was sending more troops to Iraq (aka the "Surge"). Unknown to Janice at the time, Marcus would be among the brave soldiers returning for his third tour. Marcus would later tell Janice that he wanted to return to Iraq knowing he had a wife, rather than a fiancÃ©e.
Due to the impending deployment date, the date of the wedding was moved from September to August and finally to April 21st. That meant Janice had about three months to plan her dream wedding.
The nuptials took place in Dumas, Ark., Janice's hometown. "The wedding was a huge blessing," Janice said. Knowing the photographer and cake decorator personally resulted in complimentary services. She was given away by both parents and married by two of her uncles, who are both ministers. An unforeseen natural disaster almost ruined the long-awaited celebration. Wild tornadoes swept through the small town a month before the wedding and destroyed the community center where the reception was to take place. The local life center at a church housed the event and the happy newlyweds.
Although the couple planned a lavish honeymoon cruise, one night in Hot Springs had to suffice, and Janice was back to school at University of Central Arkansas (UCA) on Monday morning. "It was a big transition," said Janice. A few days after saying their vows, Marcus returned to base in Georgia and shortly thereafter, returned to Iraq.
Unfortunately, Janice and Marcus weren't able to spend their first anniversary together. But, Marcus did make it home in July 2008 and then again for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since they've been apart a majority of their relationship, the couple is looking forward to getting to know each other by traveling and laughing together.
On Nov. 11, 2008, Marcus reached his ETS (End of Transition Service) after completing eight years in the Army and four tours in Iraq. Janice is anticipating his homecoming and looks forward to celebrating their first Valentine's Day as a married couple. Marcus will also be present to see his bride receive her degree from UCA in May. There will no doubt be many "firsts" in the next few years, but it's the small things Janice is looking forward to most.