By Kelsey May
“Hi, you’ve reached Savannah, leave a message and I’ll call you back. Hey sweetie, if this is you, I love you and I miss you and be safe!”
Up until a few days ago this has been senior Savannah Thai’s outgoing message on her cell phone. The “sweetie” she is referring to is her husband, Marine Corporal Brenton Thai, 21, who recently returned from Iraq after a seven-month deployment — just eight months after their wedding.
Here in the States, Savannah has been working part-time and took 19 hours last semester.
“I did this on purpose because I knew it would keep me busy. It was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever done,” Savannah said.
She also kept herself busy by making packages for Brenton and his fellow marines. She estimates she sent him one package a week, if not more, and even sent the battalion a little Christmas tree since they could not be together for the holidays this year.
“She took care of me really well out there. One of the greatest feelings is getting mail when you’re over seas. We really look forward to it,” Brenton said.
Brenton joined the Marines his senior year of high school and after 3 months of training in boot camp, he was first deployed to Afghanistan in May of 2004 and returned that same year, in December.
“I didn’t want to leave Savannah, but I had no choice,” Brenton said. “I’m glad I joined the Marines, though.”
Brenton was stationed in the town of Kwost, Afghanistan, and was in charge of the finances for his entire battalion, buying everything from soldier gear to cell phones.
“I guess you could call me the money man for the battalion,” Brenton said.
It was a bit of a culture shock for him went he got to Kwost because before joining the Marines, he had not done much traveling. He remembers when he would go on patrols, hundreds of bare-foot, sandy-haired children coming up to him, trying to sell him pornography.
“The kids were any where from 3 to 18 years old,” he said. “It was interesting.”
One of the harder times while in Afghanistan for both Savannah and Brenton was when he moved bases and communication was cut off for them for the better part of a month.
But Savannah did everything she could to keep herself busy. That summer she worked 40-hour weeks as a receptionist and went on two mission trips to Brazil and Sweden.
“(In Brazil), I was completely out of contact with the outside world. If anything happened to Brenton it would be days before I knew,” Savannah said.
Then the couple re-united in December.
“It’s an incredible feeling when you fly in and jump on that bus. You have 45 minutes to think about what you’re going to say to your family and loved ones,” Brenton said. Without her knowing, Brenton asked Savannah’s father’s permission to propose. Savannah’s brother, father and Brenton all went out and picked out her ring.
On New Year’s Eve, Savannah, Brenton and a couple close friends went to New York City. After the ball dropped, Brenton got down on one knee (at first, Savannah and her friends thought he was tying his shoe) and proposed.
“Are you serious? Was my response,” Savannah said. “Classic Savannah line right there, he proposes and I ask him that, but I just couldn’t believe it.”
On July 30, 2005, Savannah and Brenton were married in the same chapel in St. Cloud, Fla., by the same minister as Savannah’s parents. They went on a cruise to the Western Caribbean for their honeymoon.
“We’re both obsessed with cruises now. It was so fun,” Savannah said.
Less than a month after the wedding, on Aug. 20, Brenton was deployed to Iraq. He was still a non-commissioned officer and part of his job included distributing equipment to convoys that would come in every 3 days.
“The enemy would set up Improvised Explosion Devices and we had the communication equipment that could stop these devices.” His job was to make sure this equipment went to the right destination.
Right now, Savannah and Brenton are happy just to be able to eat dinner together and sleep in the same bed. After Savannah graduates, they will move to North Carolina, where Brenton is planning to attend school in the fall.
“I think it takes very different people to make the choices we’ve made. I know not everyone could have gone through what we went through, but this is where God wants us to be. He has given us the strength to get through it… and we’re going to have one hell of a story to tell our grand kids some day,” Savannah said.