Chris had just finished his second tour of duty in Iraq when his roommate at Honolulu's Schofield Barracks invited him to brunch with a group of soldiers from Schofield and nearby Tripler Army Medical Center.
Amy, a critical-care nurse from Cherry Hill, was among the Tripler crew that late December morning in 2009.
With 10 people around the table, Chris and Amy, both U.S. Army captains, exchanged only small talk. But that was enough for Amy to realize Chris was a nice guy, and notice his gorgeous hazel eyes. Two weeks later, she asked Justin, the friend who had invited her to brunch, to invite his buddy Nate and Nate's roommate Chris to her 27th birthday bash.
Chris, a logistics officer who grew up wherever his father was stationed and graduated from high school in Waldorf, Md., was happy to join the crew from brunch for an afternoon Waikiki booze cruise.
The cruise led to dinner. Dinner led to the bar. Chris turned from the bar with a beer in each hand - one for him, one for Amy. Before he could give her the beer, she gave him a kiss. "I planted one on him," she says, still proud of her bravery.
"And then she went on vacation for two weeks," said Chris.
Coincidentally - and conveniently - none of the girlfriends she would normally ask to pick her up at the airport were available when she flew back from skiing in British Columbia. Without the help of liquid courage, the bravest Amy got was calling Nate.
But Nate is no dummy. He invited his roommate, and it was Chris who went inside to help Amy with her bags.
"I was definitely interested," Chris said. Amy has this great, outgoing personality that delighted introvert Chris. She was successful and independent. Her bright red hair didn't hurt, either.
The two began with dinners out, and Amy soon learned that Chris wasn't just nice and fun to look at, but smart, too.
With Chris scheduled to leave Hawaii for training in Virginia six months later, "We knew we needed to hurry up and explore this, and see if there was any potential here," he said.
"I pretty much lived at his house for six months," said Amy.
It was the last time they would live in the same city for three years. But each made decisions that would get them as close as possible, so they could see each other monthly: When Chris, who is now 32, went to Virginia, Amy, now 31, signed up for three months' training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. They relied on their phones when she returned to Hawaii. After Virginia, Chris went to Louisiana. In April of 2011, Amy was again assigned to San Antonio, this time at the Army's burn center. The monthly visits resumed.
They did spend all of October 2012 together in San Antonio - only because Chris was on a month's medical leave after breaking his ankle jumping out of an airplane. He healed and was moved to Savannah, Ga.
How does forever sound?
Whenever Chris and Amy met up in late 2012 and early 2013, Chris had a ring with him, but the moment just never seemed right.
That March, he visited her in San Antonio, two weeks before deploying to Afghanistan. They were up late talking into the early morning of March 31, the day before he returned to Savannah to pack. The setting still wasn't especially romantic, but Chris had had enough of waiting. "I was tired of having to go back and forth, and not being able to see her, full-time." Chris said as much to Amy as he reached into his bag and pulled out the ring. "There in her room, I asked her if she'd marry me."
After two months in Afghanistan, Chris was transferred to Tennessee. "At least we were in the same time zone, and there was a direct flight," he said.
It was so them
About 15 of the couple's 150 guests were also military members, and all wore their uniforms. Chris' former roommate Nate was best man. And Justin - the other link in the mutual-friend chain that got this couple together - did a reading.
The couple had two very special flower girls. Mia, Amy's 3-year-old cousin, is battling cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation left her with an immune system too weak to attend the wedding in person. Mia wore her dress at home in Delran and came down the aisle via FaceTime, on an iPad carried by flower girl Rachel, Chris's 5-year-old niece. Everyone could see both girls, and Rachel paused periodically on her way down the aisle, inviting guests to say hello to Mia.
The reception at Tendenza featured sushi and a tropical signature cocktail, both a nod to Hawaii. In lieu of favors, Amy's parents made a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project. At the end of the night, everybody left with a cheesesteak and a pretzel.
Walking around the city with their families, bridesmaids, and groomsmen for the pre-ceremony pictures, Amy felt extraordinarily grateful for such togetherness. "I just felt lucky to have Chris, and to have everyone that I love, in one place."
Chris was so happy and touched to watch Rachel bring Mia down the aisle. Mia "was just as much a part of it as anybody else was, and it meant a lot to me that we could incorporate [her] regardless of the challenges," he said. He started thinking about the logistical challenges he and Amy had overcome to get to their wedding, and he knew that "whatever we need to do, we'll always find a way to do it."
Two weeks in Fiji, followed a few weeks later by a reunion: The couple now live in Kansas City, Mo. Chris is stationed at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Amy hopes to find work as a nurse. Starting in October, she will also be a reservist based in Topeka, Kan.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: Rev. John E. Calabro, Pastor of Annunciation BVM Church, Philadelphia
Venue: St. Augustine Church, Philadelphia
Reception and catering: Cescaphe Event Group, Philadelphia
Flowers: Beautiful Blooms, Philadelphia
Photo: Jennifer Childress Photography, Lansdale
Music: Scratch Weddings; Elizabeth Schenck, weddings operation manager and DJ Rashaun, www.scratchweddings.com
Dress: L&H Bridal Shoppe, Philadelphia
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