True Romance: Love Amid The Mortars

JOEY: The first time we met, I stepped into your office and asked you to sign one of my papers

Joey and Delora: Love Amid The MortarsCourtesy Joey and Delora Leon Guerrero
Joey got down on his knees to propose to Delora, with his weapon slung on his back.
JOEY: The first time we met, I stepped into your office and asked you to sign one of my papers — I guess it was for my meal card. But we didn’t talk at all until we got deployed and I heard you were coming to Company B.

DELORA: You sent me a couple of e-mails, but I was there to work. I was, like, We’re in Iraq. There’s no time for romance. So we spent four months as friends, seeing each other at work. During that friendship phase, I heard you talking about your family, and I loved it. I’m very family oriented too. I also noticed your leadership — the way you talked to your soldiers and your supervisors, how you carried yourself, the way you dressed, how your weapon was always clean. I liked how driven you were. And as we became friends, I liked how you were opening up to me — you were so honest and real.

JOEY: But you gave me the cold shoulder. So I was, like, I’ll stay focused on being friends for now. Because I knew one day you were going to change your mind.

DELORA: The defining moment was when I was about to leave on R & R, but a sandstorm kept me in Baghdad. You were helping me with my bags outside the tent. All of a sudden we get indirect fire — mortars started falling. Boom! Boom! Boom! So I ran to the bunker. Eventually, you came in kind of casually, because you were seasoned. And then we were crouching across from each other, waiting for the all clear. I was just looking at you, and it was like a romantic movie scene where all the visions of the last four months come into play: everything we talked about; how you talked to your kids on the phone; the fact that you called your mother; how you treated me. And I thought, You know what? I can’t let this one go or I’m a fool. When I went on R & R, I had you on my mind. And when I got back, we would walk every night to get away from the other soldiers and talk. Doesn’t really sound romantic, I guess: being fully dressed in uniform with a weapon slung on your back.

JOEY: But from our perspective, we did what normal couples would do. We just did it in Iraq.

DELORA: You picked out a ring online. And when you handed me the box, more mortars hit. We had to evacuate and go back into the bunkers. I thought, Is this a sign? Later that day, you walked me home.

JOEY: That’s when I got down on my knees with my weapon slung on my back, hoping we weren’t going to get hit. And it wasn’t your traditional engagement ring box — it was more like a post office box — and I tore that open and said, “Would you marry me?” I was kind of hesitant at first — being proposed to in Iraq is not what every girl dreams of.

DELORA: But I knew you were the one for me. So when you said, “Do you want to wait?” I said, “No. This is where we are. This is the moment.”

JOEY: You didn’t turn your back on me. You gave me a chance, and you accepted me. I can’t ask for anything better than you.

Joey is currently serving a 12-month tour in Korea. Delora left the Army last February to care for their daughter, Leila Rose. The couple recently traveled to Guam so she could meet his family, including his two older daughters, and to take his son, Jeremiah, back home (he’d lived with Joey and Delora for one year). They are expecting a baby boy this month.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest