I was born on January 15, 1972 in Youngstown, Ohio at (the now closed) Youngstown Osteopathic Hospital (also known as Cafaro Memorial Hospital at the time). I grew up in a little town called East Palestine, Ohio, where my parents, Darrell and Sharon Pugh, still live. I also have two sisters. My older sister, Kelly Kist, lives in Austintown, Ohio with her husband Erich and daughter Madelyn. My younger sister, Amy St. Claire, lives in East Palestine with her son Dakota.
I attended the East Palestine schools, and graduated from East Palestine High School in 1990. After high school, I attended John Carroll University in Cleveland for a year before transferring to Kent State University. At Kent, I majored in Music and Pre-Med. In 1995, I graduated from Kent State and moved on to Ohio University in Athens where I attended the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
I graduated medical school with the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree in 1999. During the ensuing year, I completed my intern year at the Youngstown Osteopathic Hospital (yes, the same place where I was born) in 2000. Then, I moved to Doctors Hospital of Stark County in Massillon, Ohio where I completed a residency in general surgery in 2004.
After finishing my residency in general surgery, I went on active duty with the United States Army. I moved with my family to Alexandria, Virginia, where I'm stationed at Fort Belvoir. I'm on the staff there at Dewitt Army Hospital. I am currently serving my second tour in Iraq, this time with the 28th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq.
The best thing to every happen to me occurred on June 19, 1999 when I married my lovely wife Julie. Julie and I have two wonderful children. Anna is six years old and is in the first grade. Benjamin is two years old now and quite a handful.
How Julie and I met...
It's been almost ten years now that Julie and I met on the Internet. We met online way before meeting online became cool, like in the Tom Hanks movie You've Got Mail. Julie and I first met on America Online, in a chat room called "Twenty-Something." I don't remember exactly what got us chatting in the first place, maybe it was her warm personality coming out in the words she was typing, or maybe it was just fate. Anyway, we starting Instant Messenging and really hit it off.
If I remember correctly, this was around March of 1997, when I had just moved back to East Palestine during medical school, and I was commuting to Youngstown to do my clinical rotations. Julie and I would meet several times a week online to talk, and we'd exchange e-mails as well. At some point, we even started making phone calls. Our first conversation on the phone lasted over two hours! At this point, we hadn't even exchanged pictures yet, but I knew that I really liked her and we really got along well.
Later on during this time, it was obvious that we got along really well, so we decided to exchange pictures. Julie looked beautiful in the picture she sent me, which was a photo of her and the kindergarten class she was teaching at the time. I can't remember exactly what picture I sent her at the moment, but I think it was just a photo of me sitting on the porch at my parent's house in East Palestine, wearing on of my Kent State University sweatshirts.
After we exchanged pictures, I guess she wasn't totally freaked out by my looks, because she continued to answer my e-mails. The next logical step in this little online thing we were doing was to meet face to face. This is the one part of the story that Julie and I look back on and laugh about the most.
By this point, it was getting into September of 1997, and it was me who first suggested that we meet face to face. Julie seemed enthusiastic, but the first two dates that we set up, she backed out on me. I guess maybe she was a little nervous about meeting some strange guy like me from the Internet. Even though she cancelled out on the first two dates, I still was interested enough in her to ask her out for a third. I have to be honest though, at this point I was beginning to think that she didn't want to meet me at all, so I had it in my mind that if she cancelled again, I was history.
For the first dates I asked her on, we planned to meet in some neutral location. I figured this would be our best bet, so she would feel safe meeting some stranger from online. Since she backed out on me for the first two, I turned up the pressure for the third. I made a bold move and said, "Why don't I just come to your house?" I guess my gamble worked, since she agreed to meet me this time and didn't back out.
By the time we first met, it was October 22 (or was it 23rd? I'm in big trouble for forgetting!), and I made the drive from East Palestine to Altoona, Pennsylvania, to meet her at her house. She was living with her parents at the time as well, and we met at a time when her family was there so they could meet me as well. I'm not sure what her dad thought of me at the time, but being a father myself now, I'm not sure how I'd feel about Anna bringing home some dude she met online.
During this first meeting, we took a trip down to State College to visit the Penn State campus where Julie went to college. We ate lunch at a little diner there in town and walked around the campus for a while. One of the more memorable moments was when we went into one of the bookstores, and there was a life sized cardboard cutout of an older Italian gentleman. In my ignorance, I said quite loudly, "Who the heck is this Joe Paterno guy?" I was almost escorted out to the city limits.
Our first date went really well. We came back to Altoona and I was having so much fun hanging out with Julie, I didn't want to go home. I suggested we go out to dinner, and I took her to eat at the place that most guys do when they're trying to impress a lady---Eat 'N Park. We had a really nice evening but the time came that I had to finally go home. After we said our goodbyes outside her front door, I gave her a fairly innocent kiss, and the flood light on her parent's front porch came on! To this day, I'm not sure if it was the motion detector that set it off, or if it was her dad turning the light on us.
The rest, as they say, is history. I married the love of my life on June 19, 1999 (that's the one date in all of this that I'm sure of), just a week after I graduated from medical school. I'm probably in big trouble for putting this story out there for public consumption, since at one time, Julie was a little shy about telling people how we met. In the past five years since we've been married, I think she's been less shy about telling people the details. I've always thought that she should tell people she bought me on eBay.
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