Monday 25th September, 2017
22.5
65 ℉ | 90 ℉Nashville
oklahoma-guardsmen-marry-while-activated-for-hurricane-harvey-relief-efforts

BEAUMONT, Texas - Morale, Welfare, and Recreation, or MWR, for most Soldiers activated for Hurricane Harvey recovery operations means taking a break from cleaning out water-damaged homes or handing out supplies to needy families. For two Soldiers with the Oklahoma National Guard MWR now stands for Mission, Wedding and Reception.

Cpl. Donald Hamilton, a team leader with A Company, 1st Battalion, 79th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, met his now-wife, a few months prior to them going on a deployment to the Ukraine. Spc. Rainey Jackson, who serves with the 700th Bde. Support Bn., 45th IBCT, predicated their relationship on Chicago winning the Major League Baseball championship. When the Cubs won the World Series, Hamilton took it as a sign to pursue her.

'The rest,' said the corporal, 'is history. We're just made for each other.'

Even the disruption of Hurricane Harvey, tearing up the Texas coastline, couldn't stop their plans to get married.

'We were planning our wedding for November, but then this all happened,' he said, referring to the call-up to Texas and subsequent recovery missions. 'What took us months and months to plan, they (unit leadership) put together in three days.'

During those three days, the United Service Organization, an association dedicated to improving service member morale, was lined up to provide food and drinks, photographers were arranged, and a very special guest was invited to provide music.

While out on one of their missions assisting communities recover from flood damage, Soldiers from the 1-79th came across a pastor trying to get waterlogged benches out of his place of worship.

'I was trying to get these oak pews out of the church when this black van comes up and out pops these Soldiers,' said Pastor 'Mike' in a gravelly voice. 'Them oak benches must have weighed hundreds of pounds with all the water, so I gave them a sledgehammer and told them to get to work. They took those pews apart and pulled the pieces outside for me.'

Pastor 'Mike' turned out to be Mike Deasy, a former member of the Wrecking Crew, a group of Hollywood recording artists who played with the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys. The pastor was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame, in Nashville, in 2007.

Deasy provided the newly wed couple with music both before and after the wedding.

'It means a lot to play for them and the Soldiers out here,' he said. 'We owe them a lot.'

Oklahoma Guard Chaplain Brian Pacholski performed the marriage ceremony, at Regional Support Area Beaumont, a staging area for Hurricane Harvey personnel and resources, using two glasses of colored sand poured into a third to symbolize the individual natures of the bride and groom and their lives until now. The sands were maroon and navy blue, their original choice of wedding colors.

'Just as they are unable to place each individual grain of sand back into their original containers,' said the chaplain, 'this is a symbol of these two becoming one.'

Ten minutes before exchanging his vows, the groom tried to explain how much having his wedding while on orders during recovery efforts meant to him.

'After seeing so many people, who have lost so much, this ceremony is a bright spot in my day. But I have probably never been so nervous in all of my life.'

After exchanging vows with Spc. Jackson, Hamilton changed her name tape to his, and kissed his new wife.

If he was nervous then, it didn't show.

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