TNF: How did you start your family?
MELISSA: Mandi & I met online the fall of 2010. While both serving in the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, we were both very cautious of dating anyone. But there was just something about her that made my worries disappear. I reported to my new duty station the same month the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” became official. We were finally able to talk about our relationship. We knew what we had was special, so a few months after I moved coast to coast, Mandi did the same. We knew we were meant to have a family together & a year after our moves, we started the process. We first joined in a Civil Union in NJ just weeks before Hurricane Sandy devastated the first place we called home together. We counted our blessings as we escaped with minimal damage. It was amazing all around because Mandi was just weeks pregnant with our son. The day before our son was born DOMA was overturned. Things just fell in place from there. I was able to adopt our son and when our son was 18 months, I delivered our little girl. We are now in the process of Mandi adopting her.
TNF: Did you always want to have kids?
MELISSA: Mandi has always known she wanted children. She knew that some how, some way, she would be a Momma. I on the other hand wanted them when I was younger but convinced myself that I didn’t want kids because I never thought I would be able to. When I met Mandi, I knew I was going to be a Mommy.
TNF: Where do you live?
MELISSA: We currently reside in New York. This summer we will be moving to our new duty station in Maine. Being a military family, our location changes every few years so home is definitely where we make it. We are both from the west coast & hope to get back there one day.
TNF: How has the shift in marriage equality affected you?
MELISSA: The shift in equality has affected us directly in a big way. As I’ve mentioned before, we are a military family. We no longer have to hide our relationship. We get all the benefits that other families in the military get. While we still have to complete second parent adoptions so that no matter where we are transferred, we will be recognized as our non-biological child’s parent. At least we now have the ability to do just that. It is amazing to us how all but a few years ago we had to hide our love from the world so we could continue to fight for others freedom.
TNF: Does your family feel adversity?
MELISSA: Although we have the occasional person who is openly against our family, we don’t take it personal. We don’t mind people having their own opinions. All we ask, whether you are comfortable with our family or not, is treat us like people. We may be different from other families but what two families are alike?
TNF: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a parent?
MELISSA: I can’t think of a big mistake. There is a learning curve when it comes to parenting. We make mistakes, like forgetting the diaper bag & suffering the consequence of a diaper blow out. Or throwing a just fed toddler into the air a few times too many. But no matter those little mistakes, it’s amazing how children don’t have the capability to hold it against you. Instead after they whack their big head on the edge of a table because were running away from the tickle monster, they snuggle close for comfort & love.
TNF: Do you have any advice for LGBTQ youth?
MELISSA: Be yourself. Be kind to others. Be respectful of others & their beliefs even if you don’t agree with them. Be confident in yourself. Others won’t judge you nearly as harsh as you will judge yourself. Don’t give up on yourself or others. If you believe in you, so will others. Just because you may feel like the world is unfair, remember everyone has struggles in life. You never know the struggles others face. Life is hard. Life is what you make it. If you choose to be bitter or hateful, that is all you get back from the world. Love with all you have & remember life is too short.
TNF: What is a life lesson you to teach your children?
MELISSA: Be a good person. Be kind, loving & respectfully. Do on to others as you would have done to you. It doesn’t matter what you do when you grow up, it doesn’t matter how much money you have or how nice your things are. Being a good person will be the greatest gift you can give others & most importantly yourself.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful family with us!