SOUTH FORSYTH -- If Brittany Giese could cut her husband’s hair again the result would be much better than that first terrible clipping in 2009. But that one bad cut was good enough.
Giese, who has since opened Artisans Hair Salon on Bethelview Road near The Collection at Forsyth and McFarland Parkway/Exit 12 of Ga. 400, had recently finished school to become a hair stylist when Ryan Giese, a man in his young 20s, came in.
“I jacked his hair up really bad. It was really bad,” she said. “He was like, ‘You owe me dinner.’”
When she showed up to the restaurant, she found it odd that the reservation was for 12 people.
“His family was all sitting there. He was like, ‘I know I’m going to marry you, so I need my family’s approval,’” she said. “I was like, this guy is psycho.”
That was in November. They dated for two months before getting married, but not before he worked to win her mother over.
“My mom loved him,” Giese said. “He was really old school.”
He had enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 2007 and had already been deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2008 to April 2009, at the beginning of which he was promoted to Lance Corporal.
Giese said they were stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, for a while after getting married. They bought a little house and did not have any kids.
Before he deployed again in July 2010 for Operat ion Enduring Freedom, Giese said he told her he wanted her to move on and be happy if something happened to him.
“Two weeks before he was supposed to be home, I was in the hair salon working in Gwinnett [County], and two marines walked in side by side and came up to me and asked if I was Brittany,” she said. “I said I was, and they said I’m so sorry, but Ryan was killed.
“It was just awful.”
On Jan. 7, 2011, the 24-year-old was conducting combat operations while assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force in Afghanistan’s Helmand province when he was struck by an IED that was thought to have been cleared.
“I still have dreams about him. They’re so vivid I can almost smell him. I swear he visits me,” said Giese, who is now 29.
She said the loss has become easier to deal with as the years go by, especially in her goal to honor his wish that she be happy.
Artisans Hair Salon is dedicated to his memory and his work for his country. She said there is a plaque for him with his picture at the business and that military personnel, police and firemen always get 20 percent off.
“The whole salon is dedicated to heroes,” she said.
She said she would not be where she is today without him.
“I lost that feeling of being scared about the future and scared to take risks and chances. He was like that live free, die hard, so I kind of inherited that in him,” she said.
She took a chance in opening her business. She bought a house and a car. She travels now. Goes skydiving.
“I met a great guy and have a daughter. We live in Cumming,” she said. “And everything is really good.”
Even though she listened to him and made herself a happy life, she still remembers their short time together.
“[In Jacksonville] we lived in a bad area … we were surrounded by groups of people we were nothing like. We learned a different culture. Every evening we would go out and listen to Michael Jackson,” she said. “There were a bunch of old blues guys who would park their cars in our front yard, and we would just sit there and listen to Michael, drink a couple brews. That was our time off.
“He was my fun, loving, crazy marine.”