Military service overseas leads to the intermingling of cultures, culture shock and sometimes love. Finding love was the case for one Air Force couple stationed in Germany, and it has led to quite a few fights between the two of them.
Staff Sgt. Jon Garrett and his wife, Daniela — Dani for short, first met a little over seven years ago. Daniela was a taekwondo fighter for the German national team, and Jon was an Airman in the United States Air Force, recently stationed at Ramstein. Mutual friends brought the two together for a blind date, and sparks began to fly.
Dani had a well-established life here in her home country of Germany. She fought for the German national team for six years, winning over fifty awards from competitions all around the world. The most prestigious of her accomplishments was winning Junior European Champion for the German national team. Her career, friends and family were all here.
Jon, on the other hand, was just beginning his life in Germany. He had left the United States behind. Newly here on orders, his first tour in Germany, he was trying to meet people and get himself settled abroad. Military life can be both rewarding and demanding, and he was quickly rising to the pressures of his role here.
Fast forward a few months and the two are going steady. Similar personalities and a growing love carried them through the various tumults of cultural differences, including an early language barrier. Just when things were getting comfortable, Dani presented Jon with an ultimatum.
“I won’t choose between my love for fighting and my love for you,” Dani said.
When asked about her decision to do so, Dani replied, “I knew that it was something that I had to let him know early on. It wasn’t going to be easy to maintain my professional fighting career and be wife and mother to a family.”
Jon quickly accepted her conditions for a continued relationship and began conditioning of his own. His childhood martial arts experience allowed him to easily transition into the life of a fighter. The next few years were full: a wedding, the birth of a child, their first permanent change of station to New Mexico, a long year apart while Jon was in South Korea, and a renewal of vows. Today, both of the Garretts are double black-belts as well as business owners, with a school of martial arts of their own right here in Rheinland-Pfalz.
His voluntary year in South Korea allowed Jon to choose Germany as his next base, bringing Dani and their multicultural daughter, Leyla, home to her country. The two then began to build a life in Germany once again, this time together.
“Opening our own martial arts school was a big part of that,” Dani said. “Jon helped me to live my dreams while remaining active duty, and now we can do it together.”
Jon and Dani currently offer a wide range of classes, including taekwondo and mixed martial arts, through their small business, Legacy Sports School, operated out of HealthFit24 in Mackenbach, just a short drive from Ramstein.
The duo strives to serve military members and their families while living in Germany.
“We saw a need in the military community and wanted to give back our passion and love for the sport,” Jon said. “Martial arts is especially good for kids as it provides a place to learn important tenets of life, like courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.”
These are all qualities that will serve military children well as they adapt to the unique challenges of growing up in a military home.
The one piece of advice Jon and Dani offer to people moving to Germany, or any overseas base, for the first time is to “always be open to trying new things. Don’t be afraid to travel and see the world with the ones you love.”
Speaking from her own experience, Dani added, “It is harder to find friends in a new place than it is when you’re home. Make the effort to meet new people and cherish the limited time that you have with them.”