Couple win rare chance to take NYC trip together

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It's not unusual for Allie and Seth Butler to be apart.

The couple were married in July 2008, but, due to military and school commitments, they have been able to live together only for about three months since then.

This year, things are different.

First, they had Thanksgiving together. Then, they spent Christmas together, staying with Mrs. Butler's family in Ross through Wednesday and then driving to visit her husband's family in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

On New Year's Eve, they will still be together, sharing a kiss at midnight in New York City.

"It's almost like we're normal," Mrs. Butler said Wednesday morning, sitting with her husband, who is a captain in the Air Force, in her mother's Ross home.

Their plans for New Year's Eve aren't exactly normal, however.

Capt. Butler, 31, and Mrs. Butler, 28, who live in Charleston, S.C., will get an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City and tickets to the New Year's Eve party at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. At midnight, they will kiss on a stage when the ball drops.

The experience comes courtesy of Nivea, a company that makes skin care products. The Butlers were selected as one of three finalist couples from more than a thousand entries in the company's "Kiss of the Year" contest. The Butlers said they won after 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.

Even for a military couple, their situation is unusual.

Allie Ketterer and Seth Butler met as Air Force ROTC students in 2006 at Ohio State University. He graduated and went to Texas for training, and the next year, she 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 and Mrs. Butler still in Sumter.

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 was necessary for them to be together.

So far, though, that hasn't been the result. Capt. Butler -- a pilot who flies a C-17 cargo plane on missions that take him around the world -- was gone for 10 months of the past year due to a combination of deployments and training.

They don't miss every special event or holiday. But they do miss many of them.

"I think we've had one of his birthdays together since we've started dating," Mrs. Butler said. "So that's seven birthdays. We've had one out of seven."

They believe the end is in sight to their arrangement.

In August, Capt. Butler will take a job as an instructor pilot in Columbus, Miss. Once Mrs. Butler is finished with school, she will find a job near her husband and move in May 2014.

For now, they will cherish a unique New Year's Eve together, thanks to the contest Mrs. Butler entered on a whim.

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

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Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.


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