They found love while serving overseasAir force engineers ME2 Yogaraj and ME2 Lai are based in the Peace Carvin II detachment for the second time – first as colleagues, now as a married couple.
Story by Thrina Tham / Photos by Chua Soon Lye & Courtesy of ME2 Yogaraj
With its vast airspace and being so far from home, training in the US holds many unforgettable experiences for the Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel based there.
These two also found their life partners.
Love was the furthest thing from Military Expert 2 (ME2) Yogaraj Kunaseelan's mind. After all, he had his work set out for him, looking after aircraft armaments and weapon systems.
That was until he met fellow air force engineer ME2 Lai Huiyan who specialised in supply chain operations – she was also deployed to the Peace Carvin II (PC II) detachment in Arizona, US.
He was attracted to her personality and found in her a listening ear, while she liked his humour and that he made her laugh.
But it was only three years later after they both returned to Singapore, that they decided to pursue a relationship. Now, the two have returned to PC II. This time, with ME2 Yogaraj on his second deployment there, and ME2 Lai as his spouse.
Finding love in a faraway place
The couple first met in September 2017 when ME2 Lai was posted to PC II; ME2 Yogaraj had been there since March that year.
They sometimes worked the same shifts and became fast friends. Outside of work, they hung out in the same group and spent weekends together.
"We never considered dating because we were very good friends who shared stories of our lives and gave each other advice in tough times," said ME2 Yogaraj, 31.
In fact, the two never went out alone, though they often did road trips as a group with friends.
They incidentally went on their "first date" to a Chainsmokers concert in Phoenix, Arizona in 2019, because no one else was interested to go. "We bonded over our shared love for their music back then as well," recalled ME2 Yogaraj.
Their colleagues must have seen sparks flying, as ME2 Yogaraj found that he was teased about them being a couple. "Before I realised it, I developed feelings for her but we never talked about being a couple then," he shared.
When ME2 Lai, now 34, was posted back to Singapore in December 2019, they continued to keep in close contact over long distance as ME Yogaraj remained in US for another year.
The two started going out when he returned in December 2020, and tied the knot in May 2022.
A spouse in the force
Back then, the two had already discussed marriage, but ME2 Yogaraj wanted to formally ask for ME2 Lai's hand.
"I planned a proposal date with our families and friends. Unfortunately, she caught COVID just a few days before that, so the whole plan had to be cancelled," he recounted, amused.
He ended up surprising ME2 Lai with a proposal at his house.
The newlyweds then returned to PC II in August 2022 as ME2 Yogaraj was redeployed for a three-year posting there. His training and maintenance work on the F-16 fighter jets in Arizona allows him to work with counterparts from the United States Air Force and improve his proficiency.
"The decision (to take a break from work) was not a straightforward one initially, but the organisation was supportive for me to be on spousal terms during the posting," said ME2 Lai, on joining ME2 Yogaraj at PC II.
ME2 Yogaraj added that it helped that his wife was also in the force and understood first-hand the long working hours.
"She understands that our work schedules can be hectic, as well as my frequent deployments for exercises," said ME2 Yogaraj, who shared that they have plans to expand their family.
"I am thankful to my wife for accompanying me here and providing me with support and strength while I carry out my training and duties."