New York City trip a treat for military couple often apart

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This has been an unusual holiday season for Allie and Seth Butler.

The couple was married in July 2008, but due to military and school commitments, they've only lived together in the same place and at the same time for about three months, keeping in touch over the phone and with quick visits.

Yet this year, the Charleston, S.C., couple was together for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, they were with Mrs. Butler's family in Ross, and this morning, they left the Pittsburgh area bound for Bellefontaine, Ohio, where Capt. Butler's family lives.

On New Year's Eve, they will still be together, sharing a kiss at midnight as the ball drops to bring in the new year in New York City.

"It's almost like we're normal," Mrs. Butler said this morning, sitting with her husband in her mother's Ross home.

Their New Year's Eve won't be entirely normal. Capt. Butler, 31 and Mrs. Butler, 28, will get an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City, tickets to the New Year's Eve party at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square, and at midnight, they will kiss on a stage when the ball drops, they said today.

The experience comes courtesy of Nivea, a company that makes skin and beauty care products. The Butlers were selected as one of three finalist couples in the company's "Kiss of the Year" contest from more than a thousand entries, and the Butlers said their story received the most votes during a public voting period.

"I think that they saw our situation as unique, just because of the time that we hadn't spent together," Capt. Butler said.

Their situation is unusual, even for a military couple.

Allie Ketterer met Seth Butler in 2006, when both were students in the Air Force ROTC program at Ohio State University. Capt. Butler graduated and went to Texas for training, and the next year Mrs. Butler graduated and went to Sumter, S.C., to work as a meteorologist for the Air Force.

They married over the July 4 weekend in 2008, but continued living apart, with Capt. Butler later stationed in Charleston, About a year and a half ago, Mrs. Butler, who also had been a captain, left the Air Force to study for a degree in pharmacy at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, an adjustment she thought would allow them to be together.

But Capt. Butler -- a pilot who flies a C-17 cargo plane on missions that take him around the world -- was gone for 10 months due to a combination of deployments and training.

There is an end in sight to their arrangement, they think. Next August, Capt. Butler will take a job as an instructor pilot in Columbus, Miss. And in May 2014, Mrs. Butler should be done with school and will look for a job near her husband, so they can live together full-time and eventually start a family.

"A lot of people ask how we do it, and I say, 'I don't know,'" she said. "We just do it. We do it. When it's that person, you do it."

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Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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