Planning a wedding can be difficult enough when the couple is together every step of the way. Curt Meyers and Claire Nelson are having to learn how to plan a wedding when he's halfway across the world in Iraq.
“In September we’ll have been together for two years, but only about three months of that we were actually together,” said Curt. “The rest of the time it’s over phones and computers. When we get married, we’ll have to learn how to live with each other.”
“In September we’ll have been together for two years, but only about three months of that we were actually together,” said Curt Meyers last month. “The rest of the time it’s over phones and computers. When we get married, we’ll have to learn how to live with each other.” Curt has been engaged to Claire Nelson since last December — but been deployed in Iraq as part of the National Guard almost since the two began dating. But they’ve known each other for a lot longer than that. Both graduated from Redwood Valley High School, Claire in 2000, and Curt in 2002. Neither can remember the first time he or she saw the other. They were always just sort of there in the background in high school. “When I was a senior and he was a sophomore, my best friend got stood up for prom,” said Claire. “Curt stepped up and said, ‘I’ll take her!’” As a result, the first-ever photos that show Curt and Claire in the same room at the same time show them with their other dates. (Also for the record, Curt was wearing a last-minute borrowed tuxedo from Bill Krinke — which fit perfectly.) Curt spoke to the Gazette on May 30, the day before his birthday, while home for rehab on his leg. “I hurt my leg during training before my last deployment, and kept my mouth shut,” he explained. With the deployment safely over, Curt came back to the states for surgery on his left knee, and nine months of rehab. “I anticipate I’ll be back in Morgan in September,” Curt said, crossing his fingers. “The next time I come home, it’ll be for good.” After Claire graduated, the two good buds lost touch. After graduating from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, Claire went back and forth between Redwood Falls and Waterloo, South Dakota for nine years. Curt, for his part, joined the National Guard, and has been deployed several times when not working in Morgan. “Whenever we’d see each other for the following 12 years, it would always be, ‘How are you?’ and a hug, and we’d catch up,” said Claire. “I’d always had a crush on her,” Curt said. Claire looked at him. “You did?” “I was a chicken.” She moved back to Morgan in April 2011, and is currently foundation director for St. John’s Circle of Care, a senior care facility in Springfield. The next she saw Curt was in autumn of 2010, while having lunch in Chumley’s with her daughter Nadia, now seven. “He was there, and came over to say hi,” Claire said. “When he got up to leave, he gave me his phone number. “A couple weeks later I was back in Redwood Falls. I gave him a call... and the rest is history.” Since becoming a couple, he longest the two have been together in person is one month, from around mid-April to mid-May of 2011. “We’ll get a month together, then he’ll be gone again for two or three months,”?Claire said. Curt proposed in late December, 2011, in the most romantic spot imaginable — the Mankato mall parking lot. “We were Christmas shopping, looking at clothes and rings. It was my perfect day,” said Claire. “When we got in the truck, Curt said, ‘Oh, I’ve got one more present. It’s in the glove compartment.’” Claire opened the compartment and found two items: a box from Zale’s jewelry store, and a can coozie. “No way is he proposing. No way is he proposing when he’s home on leave,” Claire reasoned, and picked up the can coozie. “You’re giving me a can coozie?” she asked. “Then I asked her to marry me, in the pickup, with the engine running,” Curt said. “I suppose I should give you an answer,” said the stunned Claire. “I said, ‘Of course I’ll marry you, you (expletive deleted)!’ and hit him in the arm.” She added, “The weird thing is that the ring he bought me matched one I had picked out 20 minutes earlier in the mall — but he bought it a month earlier.” Claire and Nadia are currently living with a friend in Morgan. Not for long, however; she and Curt have bought a house there. “We put Curt’s house on the market when he was on deployment, and last January, when he was on two weeks leave, we looked at another one,” Claire said. “It was all girls who went looking for houses,” Curt said. “I just said, ‘I’ll trust you.’” “It’s been good for our relationship, having to learn to trust each other,” said Claire. “We’ve had to learn we can rely on each other. When we got together for a weekend in Iowa, I took loads of papers for him to sign.” “It’s been very trying,” Curt admitted. “With her job, and trying to run a household, we can’t just sit down and talk.” “We didn’t get into a single fight during his whole deployment, but we did have some moments where we definitely had to stop talking,” said Claire. Curt and Claire have set May 25, 2013 as their wedding date — depending on what the National Guard does between now and then. “We were planning on August, but had to change it,” said Curt. “August is when the guards have their annual training, so all my buddies wouldn’t be able to go.” The wedding is set for the Presbyterian Church in Redwood, hosted (as of this writing) by the team of Pastor Scott Prouty and Father Michael Doyle of St. Catherine’s Catholic Church. “We’re having to do our marriage counseling with both of them,”?Claire said, “hopefully as soon as Curt gets home in September.” “The little bits of time we have together, we get a lot of stuff done,” said Curt. “There are many days when I don’t want to talk about the wedding, I’m already overloaded.” Sometimes when Curt was deployed in Iraq, there were literally time limitations on how long he and Claire could talk. “You learn to say what you need to say when you know you might not talk for another week,” said Curt. Even so, not all the phone calls had to be deadly serious. “Once I called her at sunrise from the camp in Iraq, because the sky was absolutely gorgeous,” said Curt. What advice do Claire and Curt have for couples having to plan a wedding long distance? “Think before you speak. So much can be misinterpreted over the phone,” said Claire. “Don’t be afraid to take a deep breath, take breaks, and say, ‘We’ll talk tomorrow.’” “It’s hard to be on the other side of the world, and wonder about your loved one,”?said Curt. “Things go through your mind.” “It’s been good for our relationship, learning to communicate,” said Claire. “You learn to say weird or irrational things and not keep it all bottled up inside.” Claire admitted that a long-distance engagement “can be kind of surreal. It’s hard to get into the day--to-day engagement feeling when he’s 600 miles away for rehab.” “It’ll be odd when you’ve been here for two weeks, and don’t have to go someplace,” said Claire.