Randy Porter's misstep led him right to Leah Jernigan. She set him straight later when he stepped out of line and then she fell for him -- literally.
"I was out doing some training," says Randy, who was serving in the Arkansas Army National Guard in 1996. "I was an instructor and I was jumping around getting stuff set up for the equipment we were using and I stepped off a wall and twisted my ankle."
The first time I saw my future spouse:
She says: “He was broke — physically.”
He says: “I thought, ‘Whoa, who is this cute little blonde?”
On our wedding day:
She says: “I just remember hearing the music playing and walking down the aisle toward him, and the two oldest boys were standing at the front of the church because they were there as our attendants, and just walking toward the next 50 years of my life is what I was thinking.”
He says: “I remember the look on her face and in her eyes. It was that warm feeling that you get when you can tell it’s real.”
My advice for a long happy marriage:
She says: “Give each other as much grace as you can because it’s two imperfect human beings trying to live together in a marriage in God’s design when God didn’t make us perfect.”
He says: “Have patience and just be able to overlook and forgive. There’s always something that you’re going to do to upset your spouse or your spouse is going to do to upset you. You have to be able to let it go.”
He hobbled to the nearest building and as he opened the door, Leah stepped through.
It was a drill weekend, and she was there as an instructor, too.
"We were teaching different soldiers, different classes," says Leah, who was teaching leadership courses to noncommissioned officers. Randy was teaching a signals course. "I had heard that somebody had broken their ankle, and I was thinking what kind of a dumb ... not nice word ... steps off a wall and breaks his ankle."
If Randy was in pain then, he doesn't remember it. For at least that moment, his mind was on the cute blonde he had just seen.
"I've twisted my ankle a bunch," he says. "Come to find out I tore the ligaments in it and cracked it."
Leah remembers him being carried away in an ambulance, although he's fairly certain someone just drove him to the troop medical clinic.
Their paths didn't cross again until about a year later.
"In 1997, the Arkansas National Guard fielded their first wide area network to all of the full-time soldiers and I was the instructor for teaching the classes that all of the soldiers had to go through to understand the regulations and the security and how to use the computers," Leah says. "I was in charge of teaching the full-time force, something like 1,400 people."
When Randy's unit went through the training, he and a friend sat in the back of the classroom.
"They were familiar with computers and they were familiar with Windows and I wasn't saying anything they didn't already know, so they would sit in the back of the classroom admiring my 'uniform,' I guess is the best way to put it," she says. "They were talking about my cute butt, basically, to the point that I could hear them talking and I had finally had to tell them to pipe down."
Not long after that, Randy started working in the same National Guard directorate as Leah.
"I was walking out of an office and he was walking out of a break room right next-door to that office. He literally ran into me, to the point that I was falling and he caught me -- physically caught me," she says. "I didn't spill my coffee, either. That was when I noticed him and noticed an attraction to him and I guess he, at that point, knew that he wanted to ask me out."
Their first date was a month and a half later, after they had gotten to know each other better while working together on projects.
They went to dinner at Cock of the Walk on May 1, 1999.
"Our dating wasn't the typical dating because it usually involved the kids and so forth," Leah says of subsequent dates. "We both had kids and a lot of our time was spent with the kids. We would go to Petit Jean Mountain and take them hiking and picnicking and things like that."
She spent time with his large extended family, and with him, working on the 10 acres he owned between Mayflower and Conway, too.
About four months after their first date, they had dinner and went to the Old Mill in North Little Rock.
"There's this place in the park where a tree kind of forms a bridge and there's a seat there. He had gotten a ring and he proposed to me. It was actually on my birthday, Sept. 28," Leah says.
Their wedding was on March 17, 2000, in the Post Chapel at Camp Robinson, followed by a reception at the adjutant general's house on the base.
"Since he and I were both military, both of our fathers were in the Navy, both of them on submarines but not on the same boat, it just seemed fitting that we would be married there," Leah says.
Their fathers were in the Navy at the same time and actually served on sister ships -- one would go out to sea as the other returned to dock from patrol. Leah and Randy were both born in Norfolk, Va., while their fathers were stationed there, about four years apart.
Leah and Randy are retired from the Army. Leah works for Acxiom Corporation.
"Randy is a federal employee out at Camp Robinson, working in the same directorate where we met," Leah says.
The Porters have four children -- 27-year-old Dakota Porter of Conway; 26-year-old Jon-Michael Jernigan of Plano, Texas; 23-year-old Sheridan Porter of Conway; and 17-year-old Sarah Porter of Conway.
"Our oldest son is getting married on my birthday next year," Leah says, "which is funny because Randy and I got married on his mom's birthday."
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Leah Jernigan and Randy Porter were married on March 17, 2000, in the Post Chapel at Camp Robinson, not far from where they met. They had a couple of missteps and one collision before they had their first date. “He literally ran into me, to the point that I was falling and he caught me,” she says of the moment she realized there was an attraction.
High Profile on 01/06/2019
Print Headline: He fell for her and she fell for him -- literally