(Amanda’s Perspective): How do I begin to write about the most incredible day of my life thus far? I have been debating how to write this blog post, and I figured I will just tell the whole story from the beginning, because every good story has a beginning, middle and end. And I will apologize in advance, because this might get rather lengthy. But, if you are interested in reading it all, here goes nothing. I guess it all started with the way we met. (If you are JUST interested in the proposal, skip to paragraph 9!)
Luke Huntington Bradshaw and I met in May of 2010 on Redstone Arsenal, for those of you who are new to our story. I have worked as a summer intern on the Arsenal since 2007, and I always loved my summer job because I got to work with my best friend, Jessica Belue. She and I met at this job when we were 16, and we have been very close ever since. We go to rival universities though (Bama and Auburn), so I was especially looking forward to going back to work in 2010 because I knew I would get to see her every single day again. Luke and another West Point cadet showed up on our first day back to work that summer, and I actually still remember the first time I saw him because he struck me as extremely handsome. We were all gathered around the round table having our weekly staff meeting, and these two cadets walked into the Concepts Analysis Lab behind our resident AstroPhysicist. This was nothing unusual, because we had various pairs of West Point cadets almost every summer that I worked there, and I was always kind to them and made friends with them, but I had never been attracted to any of them before. I specifically remember that when this pair of cadets walked in though, my eyes were immediately drawn to the tall, blond one whose green eyes matched his ACUs.
They came around the table to sit down, taking the last two chairs, and when one of our female co-workers showed up a minute later, I noticed the way that Luke instantly jumped up and offered her his seat. I thought he was so well-mannered and polite. But, I was about to be proven wrong haha Let’s just say Mr. Bradshaw had a case of the “yuk blues” when he first arrived in Huntsville, meaning that after his second year at West Point, he was very, very bitter about life in general. (He had also wanted to participate in Air Assault during that summer time slot but hurt his knee right before so he was forced to take the AIAD in Huntsville. So he was unhappy about being there to begin with.) I soon learned that he was in the habit of complaining and that he had a tendency to make inappropriate comments and use curse words in almost every sentence because he was so used to being around soldiers all of the time. Honestly, by the end of Day 1 after I had asked him not to curse about 25 times and he continued to slip back into it, I thought he was the biggest jerk to ever exist (not realizing how jaded West Point cadets can be at this time in their careers.) But I did not know all of this yet. After the staff meeting, I went up to these two cadets to introduce myself. They were sitting over in the cubicle across from mine, and I went over to say hello, like I usually did when we got new interns. Luke was reading the newspaper since he did not have a computer yet, so I went up and said, “Hi, I’m Amanda. What’s your name?” Luke glanced up, acted uninterested, pointed at his “Bradshaw” nametape, and went back to reading the newspaper. The other cadet was chattering away, but I was focused on Luke at this point. I said, “OK, Bradshaw, what’s your first name?” He seemed surprised that I asked (probably another West Point habit,) but he finally said, “Luke.” I said, “Nice to meet you” or something, and went back to my desk, and that was the extent of our first interaction. Haha he claims the first time he saw me he tripped over a table or something, but I did not know this yet.
There is never anything to do at work during that lazy first week of summer because the interns don’t have computer access yet, so it is a lot of in-processing and waiting around. Therefore, I had lots of time on my hands to talk (and flirt) with Luke. I soon learned that he was very blunt and honest, and by lunchtime on Day 2, I was absolutely infuriated by some comment he had made. (I actually think it was something like “You seem like a high maintenance girl and I would never want to end up with one of those…Imagine that! ;]) Jess was driving us to lunch somewhere, and I was huffing and puffing around and stomping out to her car, muttering about what a jerk the new cadet was. He had really gotten under my skin. She looked at me and said, “Manda..I don’t understand why you’re this upset. You’re never going to see him again after these three weeks. Why do you care what he thinks?” The problem was, I did care.
After lunch, I was appropriately ignoring him and reading a book when he came over and apologized. He told me that he is from the South too (North Carolina), and he just had not been around girls in a while and did not mean to be so rude earlier. (He told me much, much later that he thought that a girl like me would never want to be with a guy like him so he didn’t want to waste his time…And I told him that was ridiculous, because I am truly the lucky one.) Anyway, as you can tell, I had not exactly fallen in love with his charm at this point haha. But, he continued to sit in my cube and talk to me day after day, and the more we talked, the more I began to like him as a person. He gradually stopped cursing, and he was really very likeable and had the best sense of humor in the world. He could literally make me laugh for hours. He seemed like a Southern gentleman who was just a bit out of practice with the whole manners/etiquette/common courtesy thing. I knew we were very different, of course. He was from the country and appreciated the simple things in life. I was a city girl at heart and truly enjoyed the finer things in life. I was worried about what people thought of me, and he legitimately could not care less. He was the most honest, genuine, person I had ever met. You either liked him for him or you didn’t. He was not worried about impressing anyone. He liked that I wanted to get to know him as a person, and the fact that I did not seem overly concerned or impressed with the fact that he went to West Point. I really wasn’t, since I had met lots of cadets before, but apparently several girls he had dated had only liked him because of that. And so, the boy and girl from completely different sides of the tracks began to fall in love.
The end of Week 1 approached, and we got a three-day weekend for Memorial Day. I knew that Luke had plans to go up to Tennessee to meet up with his family, and I also knew that his family was bringing along his ex-girlfriend as some sort of joke. As the end of the work day rolled around, and he was packing up his stuff to go, I remember feeling oddly jealous that he was going to be spending the weekend with this girl. The guys left, and I remember being so disappointed that Luke had not asked for my number or anything. After talking for entire week during in-processing, that seemed like the natural thing to do right? Luckily, my irritation did not last long. Luke had left something behind on purpose so that he could come back in and get my number. We texted constantly throughout the weekend, and I was even able to text him directions up to Tennessee, since he had not thought to print them out beforehand. (He was already lost without me!) Lol. Later, his brother’s girlfriend told me that Luke talked about me constantly over that weekend and was so excited about taking me on a date. He promptly ignored the ex-girlfriend too, which made me feel really good. He even left early on Monday so that he could drive down and pick me up on his way to Birmingham to visit his aunt and uncle. He had invited me on this road trip on Saturday, and I hate to say it, but I was a bit skeptical about a two-hour road trip with a guy I had really just met, and so I ended up cancelling on him, which he later told me upset him greatly. But what’s a girl to do? You can’t just trust any random, gorgeous guy in ACUs now can you?
With the beginning of Week 2, we had computers so we could not talk as much at work, but we made up for it through texting. That Tuesday after work, I was driving home in the rain and he texted me saying it was a perfect day for a movie but he really didn’t want to go alone. I ended up agreeing to go to the movies with him as “friends”, and he let me pick. I chose Shrek III, not knowing he had already seen it! I thought it would be funny and light-hearted, and he agreed to go with me and sat through that whole movie for a second time just for me haha. He was so sweet because apparently he had already gone to see it by himself. But, I was unimpressed that he showed up wearing (I kid you not) a baseball cap, cut-off sleeveless shirt, basketball shorts, SOCKS, and Adidas slides. Now I was just wearing a t-shirt and jeans but he looked like your typical sloppy jock that just rolled out of bed. (I did not mind getting to see those arm muscles though! lol) I forgive him for this because it was not technically a date, but I knew it was going to be a long road ahead haha He gave me a hug when we left, and that was that. We texted all that night though, and despite the sloppy outfit, I had truly had a great time with him.
Fast forward to Saturday, June 5th, and we went on our first “official date” at Bridgestreet, We ate at Dolce (an Italian place that has since closed) and saw the movie ‘Splice.’ (long story, but this was the WORST sci-fi movie ever. Everything else was sold out, and Luke chose to buy tickets to this rather than ending the date early lol)He held my hand for the first time during that movie though, so despite the horrific movie, this date will always hold a special meaning for me.
Anyway, we continued to text, talk and go out together for the next two weeks, and we were crazy about each other by the time he left Huntsville. We continued to talk on the phone for the next 6 weeks while he was back at West Point, and according to the letters I received from his new cadets, he was calling me his girlfriend. (Basically as a punishment, Luke made them write me letters about how wonderful he was haha). I wasn’t seeing anyone else, and neither was he, so we say we started dating on June 5th, although I don’t think we were FB official until late August. He drove back down to see me for a weekend during his summer leave, and that’s when we knew we were going to make this long distance relationship from New York to Alabama work. A lot has changed in the past 2 1/3 years, but one thing hasn’t. I am still just as crazy about him as I was after the first time he left Huntsville to go back to West Point. (Jess says I came in to work the Monday after he left looking like death itself. I hadn’t bothered to put make up on and kept crying every few minutes lol she finally asked what was wrong, and boy was she in for a surprise! I hadn’t told anyone in the office that we were dating, so that sure made for an interesting lunch conversation lol).
During that time, we made sure to see each other at least once a month, sometimes more, but the longest we have ever spent completely apart is 6 weeks, which seems miraculous considering how far apart we lived. We just could not stand to stay away from each other! He graduated from West Point in May, and I was so excited to close that chapter in our lives. While it was a wonderful one and I am so proud of him, it is nice that he will be living much closer to me in Georgia before the year is out. We spent 40 days together this summer before he had to report to Lawton, Oklahoma for his Basic Officer Leader’s Course, and it was really hard to say goodbye after that summer together. I have been out to visit him at Fort Sill twice now (once in August and over Columbus Day,) and he came down to visit me in Tuscaloosa over Labor Day. I left Lawton on October 8th thinking I would not see him again until Thanksgiving, but I was excited that it was our last big countdown before he moves to Georgia. Little did I know, Luke had a surprise up his sleeve for me. Which brings me to the proposal story…
I went to visit Jess at Auburn for my 22nd birthday weekend. I got there on Friday night, and she took me to eat Mexican and bought me fajitas for dinner. We went back to her apartment to bake my birthday cake and to play board games with Luke (on the web cam) and her boyfriend Will. We Skyped Luke, and I KNEW FOR A FACT that he was in his room in Oklahoma. So any visions of a b’day surprise were certainly far from my mind. Anyway, so Saturday rolls around, and she tells me we are getting lunch, going shopping in Columbus (near Fort Benning) and taking pictures in a botanical gardens that she had found. So, we got a late start, had lunch at Friday’s, and then with the time change, we arrived at Callaway Gardens shortly before it closed. (literally 15 mins before it closed.) I kept telling her we should just come back some other time, especially since I was wearing a dress and heels and she was wearing jeans! I was way over dressed for the woods…But she had made me wear that outfit for my birthday. So we decided to hike up this trail to the Azalea Bowl, which I later found out is the largest azalea garden in the world. Luke had hidden clues for me along the path, leading me to this bridge overlooking a small, man-made waterfall.
Reading the first clue
Jess taking a picture of me on the bridge where he later proposed
View from the bridge!
Luke came out from behind a tree while we were taking pictures on this bridge, and I remember seeing him in his suit from a bit of a distance, and I literally looked at Jessica and she says that I said, “Jessica, is that Luke?” She replied, “Manda, I am going to need you to walk toward me,” and so I started walking that way, toward Luke, and we met kind of in the middle of the bridge. I gave him a huge hug, because I thought that he was just there to surprise me for my birthday. The proposal idea had not dawned on me yet. But he grabbed my hand and led me back further toward the center of the bridge. And he said, “Amanda Louise Sams, I love you. But I am going to need to ask you a question.” And then he dropped to one knee.
The proposal speech
“Will you marry me?”
Most of his sweet speech is a bit hazy, and he said he memorized it for weeks and ended up just speaking from the heart after all. We were both so nervous, but I distinctly remember that question, “Will you marry me?” and my reply? “Of course! Yes!” I grabbed him and gave him a big bear hug without even taking the ring, and then he asked me which hand the ring went on again and slid the most beautiful diamond ring onto my finger.
Placing the ring on my finger
Picking me up in a celebratory hug
We were so excited!
It was so perfect and romantic, and I was so glad Jess was there to take pictures of the whole thing. I did not even realize she was there for most of it!
The future Mr. and Mrs. Luke Bradshaw
The ring..He did so well :]
Twirling me around the garden in a celebratory dance!
After Jess left, Luke took me out for a nice dinner with champagne…We were both too excited to eat much so we mainly ended up drinking champagne and eating a complimentary dessert, and then we called all of our close friends and family members to share the good news.
Celebrating in the restaurant at Callaway Gardens, and toasting to “50+”
He was on the ground less than 24 hours because he had gotten special permission to come and surprise me, and we spent about 10 of those together!
Words cannot describe how excited I am to finally become Mrs. Luke Bradshaw. I may not have known it back when we first met in Summer of 2010, but I know it now: This man is truly the love of my life and best friend. We have gone through lots of fire together (much of which would have broken many other couples), but we have come through stronger than ever on the other side. I am fully confident that we will love each other until the end of time and have a long and happy life together. We owe every bit of our happiness to the Lord, and we are just so thankful to have been given the gift of each other. Our relationship is centered on God, and I truly believe that is the key to every bit of joy we have had as a couple. We are truly blessed beyond measure, and we have greatly enjoyed celebrating with all of our wonderful friends and family whose support means the world to us. Here’s to 50+ Mr. Bradshaw, and as my engagement ring says in the inner engraving, “Forever and Always.”
***My mother suggested that I put a disclaimer at the end of this blog post: No I do not usually text or constantly talk to co-workers while at work. This was a one-time, 1-week time period while we were in-processing and waiting for computer access. Besides, we mainly texted after work anyway. :]