"It all just came together and clicked," said Matthew, at his recent Recruit Sustainment Program drill at the Jackson armory. "We both want to go to college and we both wanted to join the military. This will allow us to do both."
Matthew leaves for basic training June 30 and she leaves July 7. Both are going to Fort Jackson, S.C. After basic, he will go to Fort Gordon, Ga., for his advanced individual training, where he will train as a signal support systems specialist. She will go to Fort Lee, Va., for advanced training to learn to work in automotive supply.
The Tompkins -- who live in Jackson -- are serving with Company E of the Recruit Sustainment Program in Cape Girardeau. Through the program, they are learning basic Army skills and values and are becoming more familiar with their roles as Soldiers in the Missouri Army National Guard. The two were recruited by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuire of the Cape Girardeau National Guard office.
"It's a good way to start a life together," McGuire said. "There are a lot of benefits that other young married couples struggle with. But Matthew and Erin are getting education benefits, a $20,000 sign-on bonus and 100-percent state tuition paid. It's a good -- and smart -- way to start a family."
When they return, Matthew will serve with the 1140th Engineer Battalion Headquarters Company she will serve with the 1140th's Forward Support Company.
The two understand they'll have to be apart from each other for more than four months while they attend training, but since both are going to Fort Jackson for Basic, they hope to see each other at church services that are attended by male and female trainees.
"We think we'll grow stronger and learn to love each other even more," Matthew said.
Both hope to attend officer candidate school later. They want to go to college -- he wants to be a high school history teacher and she wants to be a speech pathologist. They both intend to attend Southeast Missouri State University.
They also hope military discipline will help them become stronger people.
"It's a great opportunity to learn a lot," Erin said. "I'm kind of a shy person. I hope it will give me some self confidence and help me to open up a bit. And I like having my husband here to sort of understand what I'm going through and do this together."
Matthew said it should be a "pretty neat" experience. But he said they both knew they were going into the military during war time and understand that the National Guard gets activated for state emergency duty.
"We don't love war," he said. "But that's a part of it. We knew that was a possibility going in."
And, besides, Erin adds, when it comes to getting activated for conflicts overseas, they've already made an agreement.
"If one of gets sent to war, the other one will volunteer to go, too," she said. "We'd even do that together."
Being in the military together already has its advantages.
"It's been nice having my wife here," he said. "We've been able to do things at home to prepare, too -- we've practiced drill and ceremony and studied our general orders. It's been a really awesome experience."
For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-800-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.
For more information about this release, please contact Scott Moyers at 573-339-6237 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.