This is my second article for Blue Star Families and I'm really excited to get it off my chest.
Its about the day every little girl dreams off...
The Red, White, and Blue Elephant
I didn’t invite the military to my wedding, but it came anyway. The decision to get married before Iraq had been a sudden one. I had less than two months to pull together my “dream” wedding. I used the word “dream” loosely because is it ever a bride’s dream to watch her groom walk away from her with an M249 strapped across his shoulder after one week of marriage? One good thing and bad thing about having so little time to plan was that once a decision was made, that was it. No last minute changes. Everything was last minute. I told my soldier that it was up to him whether or not we had an official military wedding. He declined because “The military is going to run our lives for the next twenty years. I want our wedding to be just for us.”
So that was that. The military wasn’t invited. But on Christmas Eve 2005 two 19 year-olds exchanged vows with a big red, white and blue elephant in the room. It was there on the solemn faces of our friends and family—some of which had begged me to post-pone the wedding so I “wouldn’t risk being a young widow.” It was in the quickening of my teenage pulse as the Pastor said the words “as long as you both shall live.” And it reared its ugly head as we made special pinky-swears to each other. We said things like “I promise I’ll come home in a year.” And “I’ll be waiting for you to return.”
Last month we went to a friend’s wedding and on the way home I confessed some things to my husband. I told him that I hate weddings now because it reminds me of my regrets from our own nuptials. Of course I’ll never regret the who or the when of our marriage, but I have regretted the how.
“We did it wrong!” I complained to my husband as we drove down country roads after the outdoor ceremony. “We should have done the popular thing and had a courthouse ceremony and then had a real dream military wedding when you returned victoriously from combat.”
At least then the elephant would have been wearing some shiny brass and I would have gotten my “Welcome to the Army” sword swat.
His response surprised me, but then again, I don’t know what I was expecting. “I thought of that, but I knew what my job would be over there. No matter what, I wanted you to have the wedding you deserved.”
“What good did that really do us? I don’t even like looking at my own wedding pictures! What kind of bride doesn’t like photos of her glowing in a designer gown with an adoring man on her arm?”
Now he was caught off guard. “You don’t like our wedding pictures?”
“Well, I don’t hate them. We had a beautiful wedding. But those pictures give me my kind of flashbacks. I don’t see a happy couple starting their lives together. I see the depression, anxiety, and loneliness that were going to be our first year of marriage. I want to look at wedding pictures and feel all warm and fuzzy! I get that from your homecoming pictures. That was the start of our life together….don’t you ever want a wedding do-over?”
He took his hand off the gearshift, and held mine up for a kiss.
“No. Because when I look at our wedding pictures I see a very innocent couple literally taking on the world together. And isn’t that what marriage is all about anyways?”
I couldn’t help but smile back at him. I guess our military-non-military-wedding was perfect after all. Any day, any conditions, I’ll stand proudly by my soldier—and that red, white, and blue elephant—ready to take on the world. Together.