Happy Friday! This week's FF is a married couple who are actively serving in the United States Air Force, and stationed in San Antonio. Alex and Chip Pons share their inspiring story of what it's like being an openly gay, married couple in the military, what they're doing to help normalize the stigma around that, and their unconventional yet totally charming wedding. Read on to see what we mean...
Where are you from? Alexx is originally from California and Chip is from Michigan.
Where do you live? We currently live in San Antonio, Texas
Instagram handle: @chip_pons @alexx_pons
Age: Alexx is 30 and Chip is 28
On an unforgettable trip together: We were both given the opportunity to support the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Program and Department of Defense team during the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada. Something about that trip, despite our workload, was wonderful. It might have had something to do with the amazing people we met or the area we stayed in (this little village in the gay district near downtown)… it was just a wonderful trip and one of the only where the military sent us as a couple to do what we love as a team – that is when we are at our best!
On knowing they're "the one": We met through the process of joining the Air Force; fate brought us together at the same base in New Mexico. Alexx was actually Chip's instructor for a week-long military course and it was there that we realized we have the same job as photojournalists. Chip walked away from that initial meeting swearing he was going to marry Alexx…
On quiet, intimate proposals: Our proposals were very true to who we are as a couple; intimate, private and meaningful. I proposed to Chip first over a quiet night at home, and Chip proposed several weeks later while we were in the kitchen preparing dinner. To others, these moments might seem to be lacking a "wow" factor, but for us, they are some of our most cherished memories!
On making the most of a hard situation: We actually didn't have a wedding! To keep a very long and dramatic story short, we found ourselves in the middle of some very stressful and borderline homophobic professional trouble. As a same-sex, dual military couple who happened to be co-workers, there were some professional obstacles that we had to overcome in order to have our happy ending.
We were essentially punished by leadership for having what was termed an "unprofessional relationship," and were eventually ordered to not speak to one another. So, over a lunch break on Tuesday, Sept. 15, we drove down to the Curry County court house in uniform and swore to spend the rest of our lives fighting for one another.
Getting married was the only option to save our careers at the time which we had both worked so hard to build, but it also the key to our happiness and nearly three years later it is still the easiest and greatest decision we ever made!
On coming out: Alexx came out in his early 20s. His family was and still is very loving and supportive. In fact, they were the ones who sat him down and initiated the “coming out” conversation out of concern for his mental wellbeing. From that moment, Alexx felt fully comfortable being his authentic self, and his family has been so supportive of our marriage and welcomed me to the family with open arms!
Chip on the other hand is a bit of a late bloomer. In all honesty, I am the first man Chip ever dated or connected with emotionally. While he had a great relationship with his family, his fear of their disapproval kept him from living an honest life. When we met, Chip's world was turned upside down! For the first time, he was experiencing love, trust and self-acceptance. Before Chip had the chance to come out, a coworker we were stationed with felt the need to let Chip's family know he was involved with me and from there, it all blew up (personally and professionally) for us. But with me by his side, Chip took a leap of faith and chose love over the life he knew and the relationships he had. For nearly four years, Chip's relationship with his family was non-existent, but recently, those relationships have started rebuilding themselves.
On being openly gay in the military: We have our ups and downs just like everyone else. Constantly having to convince people we aren't brothers is hilarious and "correcting" people when they ask about our wives can be somewhat annoying, but for the most part active-duty members are very accepting. Those around us do a great job of making us feel supported and just like everyone else. We've found that having a good sense of humor goes a long way especially when dealing with people who may be awkward but have good intentions! Most military bases even celebrate Pride Month now, which is slightly unnecessary, but appreciated at least from an educational standpoint (when done correctly).
No matter how much support we feel, there will always be toxic individuals who thrive on spewing hate. Chip wrote a Pride Month commentary once about serving as a dual military, same-sex couple and when it was published, the overwhelming hate on social media (from civilians and active-duty members) was almost impossible to ignore. But we reminded ourselves why we joined the Air Force: to serve our country and its citizens; so that everyone has the right to express their opinions, no matter what those might be!
On normalizing same-sex marriages within the military: Coming out and accepting that you are gay is usually a life-altering experience. Doing so while adhering to military customs and courtesies, regulations and the day-to-day stress of military life takes that experience to a whole new level. While being a member of the LGBT+ community is a pivotal part of who we are, there is so much more to us than that. We are husbands, sons, brothers, friends... and professionally, we are Airmen. We try to promote a lifestyle that praises ALL aspects of what makes someone who they are as a whole instead of just focusing on one aspect.
For us, it's all about redefining what people in the military perceive normal to be. From us attending official military functions together and being seen supporting one another professionally, to holding hands in the grocery store (in Texas I might add) and enjoying a night out with friends, we try to show that life goes on when you come out. People have very different versions of what "being gay" looks like and for us, having a life that you are proud of and genuinely happy to be living is the only thing that matters.
On being each other's wingman: Working together has been the biggest blessing for our relationship. Before we were a couple, we were teammates and best friends. That friendship and professional comradery laid the strongest foundation we could have asked for.
The Air Force is built upon this idea of never leaving your wingman behind. Well, from day one we were wingmen and that notion of teamwork and support has absolutely transferred onto our marriage. Working so closely with your spouse during the formative years of your relationship not only allows you to spend more time together, but it unifies you in a way that is hard to put in words. Personally, we know that the other will always have our back, but there is a great sense of relief knowing that throughout the day, you have someone who is in your corner unconditionally and pushes you to be the best version of yourself!
And on that note, where some often feel some sort of competition between themselves and their spouse for success, that could not be further from the truth with us. We are one unit; we share success and downfalls – and when one falters, the other is there to quickly pick them up and keep moving in one direction again. There are just as few words for someone who would move heaven and earth to see you become your best self – even as a cost to themselves… it leaves you speechless and feeling genuinely loved!
We have been blessed to travel together and work side-by-side, and there is nothing more rewarding than getting to do what you love with who you love more than anything. Separation and distance is a huge obstacle military couple’s face, and we have been fortunate throughout our careers to have not been apart too long from one another. But during those moments away for training or individual obligations, we take that time to take a look at the beautiful life we have built and appreciate all that we have – if anything, it is those brief moments apart that makes us a stronger, more resilient couple!
On the joys of a simple date night: For us, date night is all about relaxation. There is nothing better than putting on a movie or one of our favorite shows after eating a delicious home-cooked meal (Alexx is a MASTER in the kitchen). Add some wine, continuous laughter, a loving massage, and we have everything we could ever need!
On the one thing they love most about each other: First, we have to admit that we are very much still DEEP in the newlywed stage of our marriage and we've vowed to never leave it, so our level of obsession with one another is pretty extreme.
Chip: I adore so many things about the man that Alexx is and has become, but I love Alexx's passion the most. Alexx is protective and loyal and warm and everything Alexx does, he does out of love for me. It's overwhelming and exhilarating and a once in a lifetime feeling that I will never get used to but never take for granted. He throws himself 100% into every aspect of our life together. Our marriage, his job, our future...I am blown away at how completely immersed this man can be in so many things at once and he does it all with a smile on his face. Before we were married, Alexx told me that he aspires to "do the most good, for the most amount of people," and I am constantly in awe at how he has embodied that expression. He is the epitome of selflessness, unconditional love and unwavering support and the immensity of his love knows no limit. I am TRULY the luckiest man on the planet for tricking him into loving me!
Alexx: And for me, it is Chip’s heart – he has the biggest one, sometimes to a fault. He really does not have a bad bone in his body. We are talking about a man who sees the good in everyone, which translates into the most unique and intense type of love I never imagined was real. He does not do anger or even mild irritation… Chip’s go-to when things get remotely tense is affection – I mean tight, take-your-breath away hugs and kisses. It is this incredible propensity for love that he possess which lets me know how deeply loved I am, and without question that he will be an incredible father to our children (someday).