Love and Commitment

June is here and “weddings” are in the air! I often wonder why so many couples choose June to exchange their vows. I need only look back at my own wedding to answer that. Trust me, March is not the best month of the year to be married, especially in a cold climate.

My husband and I were college sweethearts during the Vietnam War. We planned to be married after we graduated, but when the U.S. Army intervened, our “future” wedding plans changed to “present” and took place during a snowstorm at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be that way. My mother was going to make a beautiful wedding gown for me and I would walk down the aisle on my father’s arm. So much for tradition! Here is what happened.

My mother, cousin, friend, and Carl’s parents and I all rode together in one car—along with a wedding cake (compliments of my sister) and a wedding gown (belonging to my sister-in-law)—from Oklahoma to Missouri. Daddy couldn’t leave an “expectant” cow in the middle of winter. The curly-headed calf became a wedding present.

We arrived at Fort Leonard Wood on a Thursday afternoon to find that Missouri required a three-day waiting period for a marriage license and that Army hospitals didn’t give blood tests to civilians like me. But brides are very determined and I was no exception. I won’t go into the logistics, but the next morning, Carl and I both had blood tests at the base hospital.

After that, we had a half-hour counseling session with the chaplain, who wondered why we were in such a hurry to get married. We assured him the Army presented the only reason for our “quick” wedding. Then it was off to the town of Waynesville where we had to convince a judge to waive the three-day waiting period for the marriage license. He did!

After a quick lunch, we returned to the base where Carl graduated from AIT training. It was a beautiful ceremony—I think. It was hard to concentrate since I was headed to the chapel afterwards to wait for my “knight” in dress uniform. Surprise after surprise awaited me at the chapel.

The chaplain had decorated the sanctuary with yellow carnations, which just happened to match my cousin’s dress—my maid of honor. A soldier I had never met played the wedding march on the organ while another dozen soldiers lined the pews as our wedding guests. They also made certain the cake went to good use. My mother snapped half a dozen pictures—our only mementos of the occasion. Oh, and the owner of the motel where we were staying (the only motel), sent a lovely nosegay for me to carry atop my white Bible as I walked down the aisle in a borrowed wedding gown to meet my future husband.

One of the soldiers was Carl’s best man. Another signed our marriage license as a witness, and only half of those young service men in attendance eventually returned from Vietnam. We were the lucky ones. Carl was sent to Germany, but to a place that I could not join him. So I waited, as did hundreds of other young brides. It was fifteen months from our wedding day before we ever saw each other again, and that was because of an emergency leave due to his mother’s ill health.

After that leave, Carl went right back overseas. Three months later, he was finally processed out of the Army. Six months after that, our first child was born (remember that emergency leave?). Would I wish this kind of beginning on other couples getting married? No, it was difficult.

But since Carl and I have been married for 42 years, we must have done something right. I call it “commitment.” When times are tough, when romance fades or love seems lost, couples need to remember the commitment they made to each other. Whether it was in a church, a judge’s chamber, or an Army chapel, God smiles when we honor our commitment, no matter the month or the season.

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