When he caught her, they fell for each other

By Kristina Jackson

As an ROTC student, Annette Gruenstern fell off an obstacle and then fell for the man who caught her.

At the time, 1st Lt. Daniel Gruenstern was an enlisted soldier who decided to go to college to become an officer. Both were preparing to start their freshman year at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

ROTC members had been invited to the campus before the other students to begin training and familiarize themselves with the area. Daniel, who grew up in various places in Arizona, only went for one day because he already knew the area.But it just happened to be the day his future wife nearly fell on the obstacle course.“He was cute, and I was just glad he kept me from falling,” Annette said.

Daniel is stationed at Fort Riley and returned from a deployment to Afghanistan on Dec. 6. Annette, who is now a 1st lieutenant in the Army Reserve, is a graduate student in history at Kansas State University. The Manhattan residents will celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary today.

After spending almost have of their marriage apart, Annette said she feels lucky to be able to spend the day with her husband.

“I was planning on spending this one apart, so I feel very blessed to have him home,” she said.

After that day on the obstacle course, the two bonded very quickly. They spoke again at a party that evening and on a group trip to a baseball game shortly after.

Annette said it took a while for Daniel to ask her on an official date. For three weeks he only made vague statements like, “We should hang out sometime.”

Finally, Daniel called Annette and said he would start stalking her if she did not go on a date with him.“I thought he said he was going to stop calling,” Annette said. “My heart dropped.”

So they went on their first date that very night.

They went to dinner where she had a bite of his fish and “thought it was the worst chicken she ever had,” Daniel said.On the drive home, Annette came right out and asked the big question: are we boyfriend and girlfriend?

“I thought, ‘We’ll see how this goes. She’s attached,’” Daniel said. “But I guess I was, too.“The couple dated for a year and half before getting married during their sophomore year of college.

As students, they had some time to plan their future, but they knew that time was limited before they would have to deal with being separated. Often.

Annette had already decided that she would not be an active-duty soldier.

“I didn’t want to risk getting separated from him, being stationed somewhere else,” she said.

However, that did not keep them together all the time. Their first separation was when they were still in college when Annette studied abroad in Jordan. Through college, two years at Fort Rucker in Alabama and their time in Manhattan, the Gruensterns have spent almost half of their marriage apart.Their move to Manhattan even had to be made separately, with Annette moving in June of 2012 to prepare for school and Daniel arriving in November.“You’ve got separate jobs, separate lives, separate commitments,” Annette said. “You just have to make time.“Daniel said they’ve learned over the years how to deal with the frequent separations. They said it’s still difficult, even when they do make time for each other.“It’s only a couple hours out of your day, but at the same time, it’s only a couple of hours out of your day,” he said. “It hasn’t gotten easier, but it’s gotten better.“Although they have spent two previous anniversaries apart, they will be able to celebrate together Sunday. Daniel planned the day from Afghanistan, and the Gruensterns will celebrate six years of marriage with a K-State basketball game and dinner at Harry’s. For at least one day, they won’t have to worry about deployments or what comes next.“I’m just happy he’s here,” Annette said. “We could stay home, and I’d be happy.”

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