McConnell Couples: Airmen find faith in each other, Air Force

Second Lt. Nadine Suh, 22nd Medical Support Squadron TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration flight commander, and Tech. Sgt. Young Suh, 22nd Contracting Squadron plans and programs section chief, pose for a photo during Young’s Senior NCO Induction Ceremony, Oct. 2, 2015, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Nadine and Young, who met in Austria in 2005, are currently assigned to McConnell AFB through a joint-spouse assignment after Nadine commissioned through the Air Force Commissioned Officer Training Medical Service Corps program in 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Victor J. Caputo)

Second Lt. Nadine Suh, 22nd Medical Support Squadron TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration flight commander, and Tech. Sgt. Young Suh, 22nd Contracting Squadron plans and programs section chief, pose for a photo during Young’s Senior NCO Induction Ceremony, Oct. 2, 2015, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. Nadine and Young, who met in Austria in 2005, are currently assigned to McConnell AFB through a joint-spouse assignment after Nadine commissioned through the Air Force Commissioned Officer Training Medical Service Corps program in 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Victor J. Caputo)

Second Lt. Nadine Suh, 22nd Medical Support Squadron TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration flight commander, and Tech. Sgt. Young Suh, 22nd Contracting Squadron plans and programs section chief, pose in traditional Korean garments in 2007. Nadine grew up in a small town in Germany before meeting and eventually marrying Young, who was born in South Korea, while he was stationed in Germany for his first assignment after enlisting in the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

Second Lt. Nadine Suh, 22nd Medical Support Squadron TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration flight commander, and Tech. Sgt. Young Suh, 22nd Contracting Squadron plans and programs section chief, pose in traditional Korean garments in 2007. Nadine grew up in a small town in Germany before meeting and eventually marrying Young, who was born in South Korea, while he was stationed in Germany for his first assignment after enlisting in the Air Force. (Courtesy photo)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A weekend ski trip in the mountains isn't as much of an exotic getaway for Airmen stationed in Europe as it might be for the average Kansas, but that happens to be exactly how one man met the love of his life.

Then-Senior Airman Young Suh was at a club in Austria with some of his friends during a Thanksgiving weekend ski trip when a young, blonde German girl caught his eye.

Much to his surprise, this girl was not surrounded by a flock of other guys. He sauntered up to her and learned her name was Nadine Ruda and chatted with her for a bit before their two groups continued bar hopping across the town.

Over the course of the night, Young and Nadine, ran into each other at several other locations across the town, eventually exchanging phone numbers and instant messenger screen names. Young used this information to make sure she got home safely, and online chats led to phone calls, which eventually led to him driving long distance every weekend to be with Nadine.

"The first time I drove out to her house, it was a two and a half hour drive, and I was thinking to myself, 'what have I gotten myself into,'" laughed Young as he recounted his first date with Nadine. "When I got there and met her family, they treated me so lovingly and warmly and I thought 'Wow!' I really felt true love for her and her family."

Ten years later, now Tech. Sgt. Young Suh and 2nd Lt. Nadine Suh are expecting their first child, closing only the most recent chapter in a long story of sacrifices and commitment that has spanned two continents, over a dozen countries and at least a few leaps of faith.

Young was born in South Korea and his family moved to Los Angeles while he was in junior high school. He dropped out of California State University after two and a half years to follow his family to Seattle and shuffled through 15 different jobs before he decided to follow in his brother's footsteps and join the military. Shortly after enlisting in the Air Force, Young was stationed in the middle of Germany and helping fix satellite equipment at U.S. and allied military installations throughout Europe.

Nadine was raised in Schwenningen, a small town of only a few thousand people. She was in her final year of school when she met Young at the age of 19. She began a three year apprenticeship at a local travel agency after graduation, hoping to become a travel agent and learn about different countries and cultures.

The first time their relationship was challenged came when Young was given the chance to re-locate back to the U.S., forcing him to choose between his new girlfriend or advancing his career back in the states. He said he ultimately decided to see where life would take him and chose to stay in Europe with Nadine, moving to a different base in Germany.

The drive to his love went from two and a half to four hours, but he didn't care about the distance. He continued to visit Nadine every weekend until he deployed and they were only able to speak to each other for short spurts sporadically throughout the week .

Even longer distance couldn't keep the couple apart, and they decided to get married after dating for two and a half years.

"When I met Young, I had just started the apprenticeship at the travel agency, and I wanted to finish it, because you never know what's going to be in the future," said Nadine. "We had that long-distance relationship for a long time, so by the time I finished it we had already made up our mind that we were going to get married."

The couple had a small ceremony in Las Vegas before heading back to Germany for a reception with both families.

It wasn't long before Young was assigned to Joint-Base San Antonio, bringing Nadine to America for an extended time for the first time in her life.

Though she had gotten her feet wet with a few college classes in Europe, she was 100 percent committed to getting her degree during this assignment, and graduated summa cum laude from University of Texas at San Antonio with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

She began working for the city, and had a deep network of contacts and friends across San Antonio, but Young cross-trained into the contracting career field and received orders to Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, just as she was hitting her professional stride.

Forcing Nadine to give up her budding career in San Antonio made the move to Altus AFB a difficult one, but it ultimately made a positive impact on their lives, said Young.

The couple quickly came to terms with moving from a big city to a very small, military-centric location and immediately started adjusting. Young dove head-first into his new job as a contracting professional, which required many long days and nights.

Nadine had a hard time trying to find a job at their new base, as the job opportunities the area were limited, and it wasn't helped by the fact that she was not yet a U.S. citizen. Instead of wallowing in misfortune, she decided to get involved with organizations around base, and soon became a key spouse in her husband's unit and a board member of the Altus' Spouses Club.

This was the first time Nadine had become fully integrated with the military community, and she instantly found a new passion: helping other spouses and their families.

"The situation we were in and what I was able to experience as a military spouse changed the whole story," said Nadine.

Her love of her new Air Force family coincided with the completion of her naturalization process, and Nadine applied for a commission in the Air Force. She was accepted into the Air Force Commissioned Officer Training Medical Service Corps program in February 2014, within three months of earning her citizenship.

"Until we got to Altus, I had never even thought about [Nadine] joining the Air Force," said Young. "Everything just felt right, with her experiences, her degree. It was crazy that everything went so smoothly."

She entered active duty in May 2014 and received a joint-spouse assignment with Young, bringing the two Airmen here. Nadine serves as the 22nd Medical Support Squadron TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration flight commander, and Young works as the 22nd Contracting Squadron plans and programs section chief.

The next step for the two Airmen is building up their family identity as they welcome their son into the world. Young and Nadine were both born in different countries, not learning how to speak English until they were much older.

A goal they have is to bring their child up in a multi-cultural environment, teaching traditions and customs from both their Korean and German lines of heritage. Neither Young nor Nadine are fluent in each other's native language, but they are hoping to raise their son with a much better understanding of Korean and German while also maintaining a standard fluency in English.

"We're a multicultural family," said Young. "Whenever our families get together, I talk to my mom in Korean, she'll speak to her mom in German, I talk to her in English and my brother in English or Korean. It's completely natural."

A weekend getaway with some friends started a journey that pulled a young German student and an adventurous Airman from the small towns of Europe to the rolling hills of Kansas. Young is halfway through his career and Nadine is just beginning hers, and with a new member of the family about to join them, the Suhs are optimistic about the future.

"Personally, I feel like I owe it all to the Air Force," said Young. "If I didn't join the Air Force, I wouldn't have been to all these beautiful places, been to these cool exercises in so many different countries, and I wouldn't have met Nadine. It helps give me motivation to always try to make the Air Force better."