Marriage proposal in the sky

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10 Feb 2021 | PEOPLE

Marriage proposal in the sky

Love is in the air: Air Force engineer ME4 Ryan Koh proposed to his Navy engineer girlfriend, ME4 Ang Chiu Lee, in the sky.

// Story by Koh Eng Beng

// Photos by Kenneth Lin & Courtesy of ME4 Koh & ME4 Ang

The couple held a military-styled wedding in their uniforms, with the groom carrying his bride down the aisle under the traditional arch of swords.

Military Expert (ME) 4 Ryan Koh made his marriage proposal a top secret mission – he bought the proposal ring by himself and did not tell anyone about his plan.

It was only until ten minutes into their flight to Bali, Indonesia, when his then-girlfriend, now wife, ME4 Ang Chiu Lee fell asleep, that he revealed his plan to someone.

"Could you do me a favour? Could you clear the aisle? I want to propose to my girlfriend," he whispered to a cabin crew member.

The cabin crew member hurried away, and moments later, the chief cabin crew gestured for him to come over. She told him: "We're going to do this on a bigger scale. We'll call her up for a random passport check and hide her behind the curtain. Then you'll stand outside the curtain, kneel down and get ready."

This was how his marriage proposal unfolded at over 30,000 feet in the air.

ME4 Koh, 28, achieved complete surprise and mission success – she said yes!

Back then, marriage was already on the cards for the couple – all that remained was for one of them to formally ask for the other's hand. Recalled ME4 Ang: "I was taken aback; I was expecting the proposal to come at the airport before we took off or after we landed.

"But it didn't happen so I thought, never mind, maybe it's going to happen in Bali. I didn't expect it to happen on the plane."

The 29-year-old added: "It was a job well done. My friends were saying he had to propose in the air because he's from the Air Force!"

This was in 2018. The pair got married in February last year, just before the COVID-19 outbreak.

In military style: both the bride and groom donned their No.1 uniform for their wedding in 2020. They are flanked by 10 sword bearers from the Air Force and Navy.

PIONEER speaks to the couple to find out about their love story and how they keep their marriage strong as husband and wife in the Air Force and Navy.

What do you guys do in the Singapore Armed Forces?

ME4 Koh: I'm an Air Force engineer by vocation. I signed on with the Air Force in 2012 when I was in Officer Cadet School during my National Service. I am currently a Section Head in the Air Operations Department, where I am responsible for developing policies and plans for air base operations in the Air Force.

ME4 Ang: After working in the building and construction industry for a year, I joined the Navy in 2016 as an engineer. I'm now a Section Head in the Ship Superintending Engineering Centre, which is in the Naval Logistics Command. I oversee the maintenance of the missile corvettes and specialised marine craft in the Navy.

They may be in different Services, but they are both serving for the same purpose in the defence of Singapore.

How did you guys get to know each other?

ME4 Koh: We first met at the freshman orientation camp in Nanyang Technological University. She was two years my senior but we only started dating three years later after she graduated. I sent her a random direct message on Instagram and we started talking from there.

ME4 Ang: There's actually a backstory to this! In one of those "heart-to-heart talk" games at the orientation camp, he was asked which girl he thought was pretty, and he said my name. (laughs) It was supposed to be a secret but, you know, word gets around.

But I tried to avoid him because I didn't want to date anyone academically younger than me. That was my principal consideration. But after graduation, it didn't matter anymore! (laughs) So when he asked me out three years later, I suspected that there would be something going on, but never mind lah, just go out as friends first.

What attracted you to each other?

ME4 Koh: She's selfless, loyal and… immature in front of me! (laughs) When she comes home, she will share her day – the good and the bad – in full animated detail, rather than just a simple "Oh yeah, the day was good."

ME4 Ang: He is mature, kind and courageous. There was once he saw somebody fall from a motorbike and was having a fit. He went up to attend to him as the first responder until the ambulance arrived. I think not many people have that kind of courage to deal with such situations. He was given a letter of commendation by his base commander.

ME4 Koh (right) pinning the ME4 rank epaulettes for ME4 Ang with her mum at her Senior Military Expert Appointment Ceremony in 2017.

What is it like to be a military couple?

ME4 Koh: Challenging! There was an exercise that we were both involved in; she was doing the day shift, I was in the night shift. For those two weeks-plus, we didn't get to see each other except when we HOTO* the car. She would drive in to work; I would take over the car and go home while she goes for the exercise. Not being able to see each other for two weeks was a challenge but we know we are serving for a greater purpose.

*HOTO stands for Handing Over Taking Over.

The couple received their promotions from ME4-2 to ME-4-3 together in 2020.

ME4 Ang: Now that we are married and staying together, it's a lot easier to get out of the house at the same time, go to work together and get to see each other. Previously, he had to drive from Paya Lebar Air Base to Changi Naval Base to pick me up from work and send me home!

ME4 Koh: Sometimes she had to work late and her timing could not be controlled, and I would be waiting there patiently like a parent. (laughs) My longest wait was two hours!

Nevertheless, I feel that being a military couple is better in the sense that we're more understanding of each other's constraints. You can talk to each other easily because we understand each other's work.

How do you guys plan to celebrate Valentine's Day?

ME4 Ang: Usually we don't celebrate! We're the more practical sort, and the restaurants are usually fully booked anyway.

ME4 Koh: But I must qualify that our anniversary is coming in one week's time so we'll do something. (laughs)

For the couple, romance is about the little things that they do for each other daily.

What's the most romantic thing that you have done for each other?

ME4 Ang: The little things that he does for me on a day-to-day basis: he prepares breakfast for me every morning, and we listen to each other when we talk about our day.

ME4 Koh: I would prepare breakfast like steamed vegetables. And it's not easy – I will "force prep" the night before and do AOP (Approval of Plan) with her! (laughs)

The most romantic thing she's done for me was giving me the chance to chase and woo her: accepting the first date and agreeing to go out with me, even though she'd already "boycotted" me in school somewhat!

And there's more – she participates in all my family activities, and takes care of my dad and mum and our dog. She also looks for nice restaurants and plans for all our dates.

The couple makes it a point to talk and listen to each other.

Any relationship advice for other couples?

ME4 Koh & ME4 Ang: Communicate and don't give up. Couples will always have tough times and good times, so they cannot let the tough times distract them from the good times.

You have to talk things out, and once you've talked things out, you both grow stronger together. The key thing is to be willing to listen, and not stick to your own view.

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