A year ago, Sandra Sidi’s goal was to join the Marines. She had worked in Baghdad in 2007 and 2008 as an analyst for the US government, writing battlefield reports during the Iraq War, trying to get closer to the action.
A mother of two boys, Ms Sidi, 36, divorced in 2016 and said her life got bumpy after that. She had built a career as a freelance writer, had completed a second degree and was raising her children when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in August 2018. She had a bone marrow transplant in November and her disease has been in remission ever since.
Then, in August 2020, she and her boys got Covid. The family eventually recovered, but the quarantine left her lonely. She tried online dating, but nothing stuck. “I thought I was done with men,” said Ms. Sidi, who then lived in San Marcos, Texas. “I decided to marry the Marines.”
In December, to take a break from her tiny apartment, she went to a local restaurant where Ron Welch, 34, a Texas resident and malware analyst for BlackBerry, was sitting alone at a table by a roaring fire.
Mr. Welch’s gaze was immediately drawn to Mrs. Sidi’s blond hair and six-foot stature. He got up and offered a seat at his table.
The two had an easygoing conversation in which grandmothers were a subject. Mrs. Sidi’s paternal grandmother had paid for her education; she regarded her as her ‘guardian angel’.
“When I talked to Ron about my grandmother, he burst into tears,” said Mrs. Sidi. Mr. Welch’s paternal grandmother, with whom he had been very close, had recently passed away.
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While talking, the two also discovered that they had both attended Texas State University. There he obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2017 and an MFA in creative writing in 2016. A Dartmouth graduate, Mrs. Sidi also has a master’s degree in political science from Yale.
Other future boyfriends, Ms. Sidi said, had become skittish after hearing about her children, health problems and career aspirations. But Mr. Welch said he was undaunted during their first conversation. “I appreciated Sandi’s honesty,” he said. “That’s one of her most beautiful qualities.”
“It is better to be with the ideal woman who has no ideal circumstances than the non-ideal woman with great circumstances,” added Mr. Welch to it.
The two soon spent a lot of time together, including at the gym, where Ms. Sidi struggled with pull-ups. (The Marines require women to play a minimum of three to enlist, with a preference of 10.) Mr. Welch was an excellent coach. “He can bank 350,” said Mrs. Sidi. When she mused about what would happen if she was hired, he announced that he would be enlisting too.
In January 2021, about two weeks after they met, Ms. Sidi tore a shoulder muscle, quelling her active duty dream. But she was already beginning to envision a new future.
The following month, after a massive winter storm hit Texas and left her home without electricity, Mr. Welch drove an hour on icy roads from his home in Cedar Park to check on Mrs. Sidi and her children. “They first met Ron, huddled in bed against the cold, all of us piled up, including the dog,” she said.
Welch proposed in October 2021, and on December 12, a year after the date of their meeting, the couple married at the Angel Springs Event Center in Leander, Texas. The Rev. Steven Simmons performed in front of 75 guests, most of them vaccinated.
The ceremony took place outdoors under a canopy of oak trees. Mrs. Sidi was walked down the aisle by her father and two sons; the latter joined the couple at the altar for the final wedding blessing.
“In his vows, Ron promised to support and love me, but also to love, support and guide my two sons,” said Ms. Sidi, adding that three years ago, after her diagnosis, she was not could have dreamed they dance all night long, let alone remarry.
“There are actually men who are not afraid of life’s complications,” she said.