Master-Corporal Darren Dungey and Second-Lieutenant Kristina Dungey are less than a year into their posting to Joint Task Force (North), but how they made it North together was born out of a tragic and life-altering turn of events.
Their story stems from an initial meeting they had in the summer of 2009 when their two fathers – both retired military servicemen and mutual friends – had a visit in the Ottawa area.
Despite the closeness of the two senior men, the future couple did not know one another.
Darren and his father Robert, both avid motorcycle enthusiasts, decided to take a ride in the city to visit Kristina and her father.
“We met and talked for a couple of hours and afterwards I was sort of kicking myself afterward and thinking that it was too bad that I didn’t get Kristina’s phone number,” Darren recalled.
The two were never sure when – or even if – they would see each other again.
That same September, however, they would reconnect under tragic circumstances when Robert, while motorcycling on a back road outside the nation’s capital hit gravel and experienced a serious wipeout.
His injuries were life-threatening and he was taken immediately to the emergency room as a trauma patient at the Ottawa Civic Hospital.
Kristina, who was studying as a paramedic at the time, happened to be working a working student on site when the man arrived.
“He had quite significant injuries to really substantiate him going there,” she remembered.
“I was doing my consolidation at the hospital when Robert came in on a stretcher by ambulance.
“I happened to know the paramedics that were bringing him in and they happened to get me on Robert’s case. As soon as I saw him, I knew who he was.”
Darren and his mother arrived well into the night to see the very injured father.
“I’ll never forget walking into the hospital and seeing my dad laying there on the bed in very bad shape,” Darren recalled. “The first thing he said to me after kind of grabbing me by the arm and pulling me in close was ‘Darren you are not gonna believe who’s here.
I said, ‘Who is it?’
“And he said, it’s Kristina.”
Kristina had stayed at the hospital well into the night to ensure that she was able to communicate with the family so that they understood the extent of Robert’s injuries and how the patient was being cared for.
“I wasn’t going to leave his dad by himself until they were able to get there,” she said.
Robert eventually made a full recovery and it wasn’t until a few weeks after the accident where Darren and Kristina’s relationship was cemented together for good.
For a second time, the two had not exchanged phone numbers or contact information.
“I had been doing a report for school and we had to explain the (medical) situations that we had dealt with,” she said. “It really came back to me that I hadn’t found out how Robert was doing, because that’s a lot like paramedic life where you drop someone off at the hospital and you never follow through.
“I went online and researched Darren’s name and looked up every possible Darren that I could possibly find. I found where he was working at the time and got a phone number associated with him and sent a text message to see if we could get by together to find out how his Dad was doing.”
The two connected and spent some time together. Within three months he proposed and they were married on Oct. 30, 2010.
Joining the military
Kristina, then 29, graduated as a paramedic in 2010, fulfilling a life goal, but they both realized that Darren, 33, had a dream left unfulfilled. He wanted to join the military.
For 15 years he had worked at the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa as a youth mental health and recreation worker but needed a change.
“My dream in life was to become a paramedic and I was able to succeed at that,” she said. “He always wanted to join the military so I said, you know, sometimes you just have to follow your dreams.”
Darren trained and was posted within a few years to Petawawa. She followed, working for a physiotherapy office to help raise their two sons who soon.
They spent about seven years raising a young family at the Ontario base before she caught the itch to join the military. She eventually joined in 2019.
“The military had always interested me and so I decided to just do it,” she said, noting that she wanted to be able to best support her family and her husband. Darren was very supportive, his job with the military was very supportive that his wife was applying and then when I got accepted. They did everything they could to support him and the kids while I was way at training.”
Last year, the two were given the opportunity to transfer to Yellowknife and found it appealed to them because of the outdoors and similar setting as Petawawa.
Ten years on, the Dungeys are deep-rooted and contented in family life. In October, they spent their first decade as a married couple in Yellowknife with their two sons – nine-years old and seven with a snowy hike in the woods and a dinner at Coyote’s.
They similarly look forward to sharing Valentine’s Day together as one family unit.
“We want to include them and make sure that they’re involved in whatever it is we’re doing so as special as Valentine’s Day is to us it’s equally as special to the kids,” Darren said. “So we’ll make sure that they’re a part of it.”