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Just before she went to bed that night at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Senior Airman Kristi Mundwiller set not one, but four alarm clocks for 5 a.m.

It was around 10 p.m. on July 29.

“That was one appointment I wasn’t gonna miss for the world,” said the 21-year-old airman.

She finally fell asleep around 3 a.m., tossed and turned, woke up several times, but at 5 was up. “I didn’t sleep very well at all. I was too excited. And nervous actually,” she said.

It was Friday, July 30, Kristi Mundwiller’s wedding day.

She got into jeans and a pajama shirt and made her way not to a church, but to the base’s Family Support Center. Set to meet her there were her commanding officer, an Air Force lawyer and her unit first sergeant.

That, so to speak, was the wedding party. At least, the South Korea half.

Half a world away, the rest of the wedding party was at that moment in the Lowndes County courthouse in Valdosta, Ga., where it was Thursday afternoon, July 29.

Standing by were probate court judge Ruby K. Sirmans and the man Mundwiller was about to marry — by telephone — Airman 1st Class Thomas Gillespie, also 21.

They’d met in August 2001 when both were rookie airmen entering tech school at Shepherd Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. After training they were both assigned in March 2002 to Moody Air Force Base, Ga. She’s from Dowagiac, Mich. He’s from Victorville, Calif.

“He is one of the nicest and most polite guys I have ever met. He’s considerate of everybody and anything. He’s a sweetheart to no end,” Mundwiller said.

Then last November, she learned she was slated for assignment to the 8th Maintenance Squadron at Kunsan Air Base. She was set to leave Georgia on July 5. The day before, as she sat at the computer, Gillespie came into the room.

“He came in and got down on his knees in front of me and turned me around and said ‘Will you marry me?’”

“I said ‘Yes’ and started crying.”

They didn’t set a wedding date but thought they’d probably marry in a few months.

She flew to Kunsan, and soon after he called with some news. He was set to deploy to Iraq in August and they better marry as soon as they could.

She readily agreed.

“That scared me ’cause I didn’t want to risk losing him and not being able to say at least once that ‘this was my husband and I’m very proud of him,’” she said.

But how could there be a wedding with the two so far apart?

Gillespie knew of an airman at Moody who, while deployed in the desert, had married by satellite phone.

“It took me a few days to decide if I actually wanted to do it, because I wouldn’t be able to see him in person, and touch him and stuff,” she said.

Mundwiller next talked to Senior Master Sgt. Joey Williams, her first sergeant. He phoned the base legal office and spoke with Capt. Justin Price, chief of civil and international law.

Price did the legal research on what it would take for what’s known as marriage by proxy.

“I soon found out that we needed to get the application for the marriage certificate filled out by both of the parties that wanted to get married, and we had to get that back to the county courthouse in Georgia,” Price said.

They’d also have to give Georgia a notarized affidavit saying that it had indeed been Mundwiller who’d signed the application.

“Then I had to get all the parties together, so I called the clerk of the court and the justice of the peace and the fiancé” and Mundwiller, Price said. “And I also had to get her first sergeant and her commander to gather at the Family Support Center.”

Then, on the morning of the wedding, they set up the conference call, using speakerphones.

Price saw that Mundwiller was nervous, fidgety. “She was giggly,” said Price. “You could tell that she was very excited and very talkative and just beside herself.

“And basically what had to happen was that the justice of the peace read the wedding vows and … both people had to say ‘I do.’ And her commander had to witness her vow and then we had to do an affidavit saying he did indeed witness that, and then we had to fax it back to Georgia,” Price said.

The judge read the vows, the couple pledged their lives and the judge pronounced them man and wife. Kristi Mundwiller was now Kristi Gillespie.

“The whole thing took about 10 minutes,” said Price. “They are legally married in the state of Georgia."

After the unique ceremony, the judge wished the couple the best.

“She said what we were doing was really, really special and that she hopes that we will have a very long life together and congratulations a lot,” Kristi Gillespie said.

“He’s trying to come over here for Christmas, so I’m hoping he can find a way to get over here. That would be really exciting,” she said. “And he wants to thank my commander and first sergeant and Capt. Price in person, because he thanked them over the phone but he wants to do it in person.”

Her fellow-airmen have congratulated her, not only on the marriage, but on the method.

“Actually a lot of people are saying ‘That’s cool.’ They never heard of it before but said congratulations and ‘go me’ and ‘go us.’

“They’re all really happy for us.”

Though now legally married, the Gillespies still want a traditional wedding. It’s set for July 29, 2005 in Clearwater, Fla.

“We’re saving up all our money,” Kristi said. “I even found a wedding dress.”


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