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WAR WEDDINGS Military marriages: I now pronounce you soldier and wife



Published: Sun, April 27, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Although they might be away from their husbands for quite a while, the brides look toward the future.

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

It was "hurry up and not wait" for three military couples who pushed ahead their marriage dates by months and years because of the war in Iraq.

Now, the combat phase of the war appears to be nearly over.

But a few months or weeks ago, when the couples were married, war was imminent and its duration uncertain.

The knowledge that they could be separated for a long period of time, or -- the unthinkable -- forever, prompted the couples to tie the knot before they otherwise would have, and before the military partner was deployed.

Mandy Platthy, 20, and Dustin E. Harvey, 19, of Boardman, had known each other at Fitch High School in Austintown, from which they graduated in 2001, but they had not dated. Last year they met again, began dating and fell in love. Marriage had been discussed, possibly in 2005 after she finished college at Youngstown State University. They were not yet engaged.

Then, on March 2, Dustin received his active-duty orders. Two days later, they were married in a civil ceremony by Warren Municipal Judge Thomas Gysegem.

"We were nervous about telling our parents we wanted to marry quickly, but they were very supportive and encouraged us," Mandy said.

Mandy's parents are Sandy and Terry Platthy of Liberty. Dustin's mother is Michelle Harvey of Austintown. His father and stepmother, Paul and Andy Harvey, also live in Austintown.

Done in a day

Erin Huggins, 23, and Nicholas Anderson, 21, met several months ago at work as Pinkerton Security guards at Lordstown General Motors assembly plant. They are expecting a child in October, and they were planning a 2004 marriage. Erin is a 1997 graduate of Youngstown's Chaney High School, and Nicholas graduated in 2000 from Fitch.

Nicholas' call-up was also March 2.

"We didn't think we had time before he left to get married because of the waiting period for the license," Erin said. "But then he found out it could be done in a day. He called me at work at 10:30 a.m. on March 7 and said: 'Can you leave work so we can get married?' He said it was that day or wait until he came home.

"I said yes."

"Nick called my dad and asked if he could marry me. I told my boss I was going home to get married," she added.

They were married in their apartment in Austintown by a coworker and ordained minister, the Rev. Glen Rader. The whole thing -- including buying rings -- was planned and completed in four hours.

With her parents, Paul and Karen Huggins of Youngstown present, and two friends, Marcy Lilley of McDonald and Jamie Williamson of Boardman as witnesses, Erin and Nicholas were married.

Nicholas' parents are Marilyn and Robert Harvey of Austintown.

"I was not afraid. I was ready to get married. Now he will have a wife to come home to, and a child," Erin said.

Nicholas and Dustin are both specialists E-4 with the Army Reserve's 347th Quartermaster Co., a petroleum and supply unit in Farrell, Pa. They are stationed at Fort Dix, N.J., where they are undergoing training and awaiting re-assignment.

'Into high gear'

Teresa Sypert, 25, and Army Staff Sgt. Paul Bennett, 32, were engaged in October 2001 and planned to be married June 7 this year after her May 17 graduation from nursing school at YSU.

When he received orders to go to Iraq, "we went into high gear," said Teresa, a 1996 graduate of Hubbard High School. They moved the marriage up to Dec. 29, 2002. He left Jan. 6, 2003, from Fort Benning, Ga., and was attached to the Army's 3rd Infantry in Iraq.

"When we got engaged, my mom and I started planning," Teresa said. "We had already booked a hall, and we were going to lose our deposit money because of the change in dates. I took a leave of absence from my job [a nurse's aide at Sharon Regional Hospital]. Mom took care of everything. She got the dates changed."

Her parents are Richard and Linda Sypert of Hubbard.

The wedding, performed by the Rev. David Cesene, and reception were at Willow Creek Banquet Center in Girard. The original location was Mill Creek Park, and the purple cow lilies Teresa had wanted, because they were the first flowers Paul gave her, were out of season and not available.

But, she said, "I have no regrets ... none whatsoever. Everything fell into place. I had a beautiful wedding."

"Paul worried that the wedding might not be perfect for me. But I told my mom if I had to, I would wear my dress to the courthouse to get married," Teresa said.

Similar sentiments were voiced by Mandy and Erin.

"No regrets," said Mandy. "I wanted him to have a wife to come home to, not just a girlfriend."

"Dustin wanted that same assurance. He knows that I had the feelings and cared enough to marry him. It is definitely better than I thought it would be. He tells me every day, 'I'm so glad I married you,'" Mandy said.

Financial security

Although not the overriding reason for their quick marriages, their husbands' desire to make sure their girlfriends and fianc & eacute;es would be financially secure if something happened to them was also a common theme among the couples.

Their weddings and new lives as married couples make for exciting times. But they had to quickly face some sobering issues, including separation.

Even though they knew it was possible, Mandy and Erin were still stunned when their husbands were called to active duty, and in Teresa's case, when Paul was sent to Iraq.

The dreaded call

Erin was in their apartment when Nicholas got the call.

"I freaked out. I cried for the entire two weeks before he left and for a week after he left. Everything had been going so well. We did everything together. He's my best friend," Erin said.

"Just knowing he wasn't going to be here when I got off work ... it was weird coming home to an empty house. Finally, he told me not to get myself upset and put stress on the baby," Erin said.

"Dustin came into the apartment and made me sit on the floor, but he couldn't say the words. Finally I said, you have to go, don't you? I think I cried all night," Mandy said.

"The first day he left, it was shocking. We did everything together ... go to school, shop, live together. You can't prepare yourself for that. At the end of the day, I realized when I walked into the apartment that he was not coming home for a long time. The emptiness of it all ...," Mandy said.

"We had to make really difficult decisions about wills and funerals, all in the first 12 hours of our marriage," Teresa said.

"When Paul left, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park. But when the war broke out, I cried a lot. I told everybody, 'Don't ask me about it.' If you care, don't ask. It was hard," Teresa said.

She said Paul's mother, Judy Hatchett of Hendersonville, N.C., was a comfort to her.

"People say they understand, but they don't unless they have somebody there," Teresa said.

She said her "heart is in her thoat" every time an unfamiliar car comes up the street. She is afraid it might be a military representative to tell her Paul has been hurt or killed.

War protest

Teresa encountered war protesters on YSU's campus who tried to give her an anti-war flier.

"I said no thanks, my husband is over there, and I support the war."

"Oh," one of them said, "he's killing babies."

"I just walked away. In hindsight, I thought of things to say, like 'He's one of those protecting your right to say ignorant things,'" Teresa said.

"Whether people agree with the war or not, they should support the troops. They are the reason we have freedom," Teresa said.

Looking ahead

Even with the war winding down, Dustin, Paul and Nicholas still may be away from home for a long time. Nevertheless, their wives are already looking forward to the future.

"When Nick gets home, we plan to go to school, get a house and raise our child," Erin said. She said they want to renew their wedding vows on their wedding date in 2005 and have a church wedding and a reception.

The last time Teresa spoke to Paul was March 15, when he called her on a phone a journalist let him use. Her last letter from him was dated March 19.

"I know he is OK, because they would have contacted me otherwise," Teresa said.

And she actually saw him on Fox News one day while she was channel-hopping, when the camera scanned the crowd behind the reporter," she said.

"I'm looking forward to when he comes home. I want us to have a honeymoon and a normal life," Teresa said.

Planning to move

After she graduates in May, Teresa and her black lab, Duchess, plan to move to Fort Benning, where Paul is stationed. Paul has an 8-year-old daughter, Montana, whom they hope to make part of their family. Teresa has already accepted a position in the post-surgical unit at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ga.

Mandy said she and Dustin want to take a honeymoon cruise next year. They also plan to renew their vows in a church ceremony.

"I'm OK. I've been incredibly busy with work and school and doing things with my family and his. I know Dustin is safe, and I know it's just one year. I definitely feel [marriage] was the right decision. When he gets back, we can start our lives together. I can spend the rest of my life with him," Mandy said.

alcorn@vindy.com




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