Belleville East High School sweethearts Marc Rosen and Michele Robinson not only got married, they both ended up as lawyers with the U.S. Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps.
The public got to know the JAG Corps in 1992, when Tom Cruise starred in the hit movie "A Few Good Men." Its lawyers advise and assist the military on everything from rules of engagement to counterterrorism, recruitment to benefits, civil litigation to court-martial.
"It's like a worldwide law firm," said Marc, 39, who recently moved to California with Michele and their two children, Madelyn, 13, and Gavin, 3. "And it's a special privilege to be able to serve and wear the uniform."
Marc is a commander, one pay grade above Michele. He's taking a year of classes at the University of San Diego School of Law to specialize in environmental law.
He returned to the United States in August after nine months as a senior rule of law policy analyst at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan, helping that country establish new legal and judicial systems.
"(California) was a welcome change coming from the stress of Kabul," said Marc, who traveled through war zones under high security and met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "San Diego is gorgeous. But it's challenging getting back into the school environment."
Michele is a lieutenant commander who serves as senior lawyer to the commanding officer on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier docked at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado, Calif.
She formerly worked at the Pentagon, practicing administrative law in the JAG Corps office.
"I have a whole new appreciation for military spouses who stay behind while their husbands or wives are in dangerous wars-fighting areas," said Michele, 39. "I actually told Marc to lie to me. If he was traveling a lot or doing things that were potentially dangerous, I didn't want to know about them. He could tell me when he got back, and he did."
Now that the Rosens are reunited, they can go to the movies, swimming pool and San Diego Zoo, hit around tennis balls and play in the park.
Marc and Michele share household chores and other family responsibilities equally.
"I have tried to pull rank at home on occasion," Marc said. "But it has never worked."
Marc grew up in Belleville, the son of Norman and Judy Rosen. Michele lived all over the country with her parents, John and Karen Robinson. The Robinsons moved to the metro-east in the late 1980s, when John retired from the Air Force and became a civilian employee at Scott Air Force Base.
Marc and Michele met in English class at Belleville East, and Michele can't resist telling the story without some good-natured ribbing.
"I thought (Marc) was very pretentious," she said. "He would ask a question minutes before the bell was going to ring, and it would keep everyone in class. It was annoying. My nickname for him then was 'Brown-noser.' Now I know he really wanted to learn. He never missed a day in high school."
The couple went bowling at Scott on their first date, then returned to her house to watch the movie, "Total Recall." Michele graduated from Belleville East in 1991, a year before Marc.
They married after Marc earned an English degree at University of Illinois. He was commissioned as a Navy officer in 1998 and graduated from University of Kansas School of Law the following year, opting for a military career instead of private practice.
"You get an enormous amount of responsibility right out of the gate (in the JAG Corps)," he said. "You get a stack of litigation cases, and you're lead attorney on those cases. You're not carrying someone else's briefcase."
Michele earned an accounting degree at Eastern Illinois University. She worked six years as a Sprint accountant before returning to school and graduating from DePaul University College of Law in 2004.
Daughter Madelyn had her parents' undivided attention for 10 years. Then Gavin was born on Madelyn's birthday, May 20, 2009, despite a scheduled C-section the following week.
"Madelyn has been a pretty good sport about it," Marc said, noting he and Michele were just happy that Gavin was healthy after losing their first baby boy three years before.
Sometimes Marc and Michele can't believe how lucky they have been to work as military lawyers with interesting assignments in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Italy; Norfolk, Va.; Afghanistan; and San Diego.
"The opportunity to be in the JAG Corps -- to practice different kinds of law, work with different people in different aspects of the Navy -- far outweighs the extra money that you would get practicing one type of law in one location your entire life," Michele said.