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got second place, I got the man of my dreams.” That would be the short version of how two state winners of the 2007-2008 national Voice of Democracy contest met, fell in love, navigated a long-term relationship and ultimately married on June 1 this year. “It’s just crazy how it worked out,” said Kaisa Messerly (then Moilan), North Dakota winner. “People don’t believe us at fi rst.”

When the state winners fi rst came together for a reception in Washington, D.C., that year, T.J. Cody, Tennessee winner, noticed Kaisa when she fi rst walked into the room. During the group’s tour of Arlington National Cemetery, Kaisa and two other contest winners saw T.J. walking alone and invited him to join them. Kaisa and T.J. sat together on the bus from then on. It couldn’t possibly work out,

Kaisa fi rst thought. They would just be friends. After they reconnected during the VFW-sponsored Freedoms Foundation trip at Valley Forge, they started e-mailing each other, still “just friends,” she said. Slowly that relationship morphed into a feeling that they might want something more serious, Kaisa said, and they offi cially became boyfriend and girlfriend in the fall of 2008.

They called, emailed, texted, Skyped and saw each other face- to-face every few months. Kaisa attended college at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., he at West Point in New York. She focused on education, he on history and the military. She studied abroad one semester and

then went back again to teach in England until graduating suma cum laude in 2011. Between summer details and school, T.J. toured France, walked the beaches of Normandy and met old French 3rd Armored Division soldiers. Come what may, they stayed connected every way possible until T.J. proposed to Kaisa at the end of 2011. A romantic kind of guy, he tied the ring into the corsage he’d bought for her to wear at the West Point, Tennessee, All Academy and ROTC Ball his junior year. Kaisa, having earned her teaching degree at Bethel College in Minnesota, moved to New York to be near West Point, and worked as a tutor and a nanny. The couple set their wedding date for the weekend after T.J.’s graduation. They married June 1 in Baltimore, a city where both of their grandparents had lived, a site only 40 minutes from where they fi rst laid eyes on each other. A 2nd Lieutenant in the Armor branch, T.J. will train at Fort Benning, Ga., with his fi rst post at Fort Bliss, Texas.

“I just hope people believe this

story,” Kaisa added. Others are incredulous. Her English skills are another crucial detail in that story. If her former English teacher hadn’t pushed her to write an entry for the contest, she wouldn’t have won at the state level and made it to D.C. when T.J. did. “I now call her the old matchmaker,” Kaisa said. “I don’t recommend a long-distance

relationship to anyone,” she added, “but if you fi nd the right person, you make it work.” ■ MS

JULY 2013 17

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