Ela Mirkovic moved to the United States from Croatia in May 2011. Four months later, she met Okpara Kelly on Facebook. They chatted online and had their first date at an Applebee’s, discussing topics that ranged from favorite colors and music to life plans. They shared a first kiss that night under a bright moon.
“Every date we had, I was falling more in love with him, and I realized that he is a really amazing man that I would love to be married to and spend my life with,” Ela said. “It came natural to marry.”
In February 2012, they became man and wife, but their time together as newlyweds would be brief. Okpara, a petty officer second class on the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, had to deploy in June. He’d be gone for the better part of 13 months.
“I was alone with no family or friends,” said Ela, who lives in Virginia Beach. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life.”