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Bride-to-be didn’t let sudden Iraq deployment spoil her wedding

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Cillia Edwards, an intel analyst with the Texas Army National Guard, 1st Armored Division, poses for a bridal photoshoot during her deployment to Iraq, Jan. 16, 2017.

JASON YOUNG/U.S. ARMY PHOTO

By DENISSE RAUDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 15, 2018

When Sgt. Isaiah Alexander Marion proposed to Staff Sgt. Cillia Edwards in January of last year, the couple never expected to be planning their wedding 7,000 miles apart.

Marion and Edwards — both intelligence analysts with the Texas Army National Guard — met during a drill in 2015. Two years later, the newly engaged couple had just welcomed a new baby when they received some unexpected news: deployment orders.

The mother of four learned of her upcoming nine-month tour to Iraq only one day after the end of her maternity leave.

“My first thought was my baby,” Edwards told Stars and Stripes in an email. “My second thought was, ‘I simply have to do this.’ It’s the job. So, I started making a plan to save enough breast milk to last through my baby’s first birthday and getting my family prepared.”

Wedding preparations quickly turned to preparations for deployment. Edwards left for Irbil in June 2017.

The couple’s wedding date was set for November 2018; however, a few months into Edwards’ deployment, Marion also received orders to deploy to the Middle East. The couple had to move up their ceremony to coincide with the end of her deployment and the start of his.

Being in Iraq and pushing the date up to April 28 of this year meant there would be no time for cake-tastings, catering appointments or visiting venues.

“This process has been hard, it’s been really hard,” Edwards said in an article published by the Texas Military Department in February. “Nobody wants to be deployed during an engagement. You want to be with your fiancé and doing all of these things together.”

Being in Iraq also meant she’d have to say yes to a dress from an online store and skip the traditional dress-fitting sessions a bride might have in the States. Edwards had alterations done by an on-post tailor in Irbil and chatted with him about her wedding plans over tea.

“That was kind of weird and different,” she said in the article. “Normally you would go to the bridal shop with your bridesmaids, but I didn’t have that kind of time.”

Despite the unusual circumstances, Edwards said her fellow soldiers were supportive of her planning. When her dress was finally ready, they helped her do her makeup, scout locations in a Humvee and carried out a sofa from the personnel office for an impromptu photoshoot around Irbil.

“Everyone was excited to think of such a happy occasion in the middle of the strain of a deployment,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ advice for planning a wedding while deployed: “Stay organized, start early, and nail down the theme for your vision first. You will need a central theme to narrow your choices and you can save tons by starting early.”

Edwards said she and Marion learned a lot from having to plan a wedding apart.

“[Deployment] really cultivated the love we already had,” she said.

The couple married in Houston on April 30, a few weeks after her return from Iraq.

rauda.denisse@stripes.com
Twitter: @DRauda_Stripes

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Cillia Edwards, an intel analyst with the Texas Army National Guard, 1st Armored Division, poses for a bridal photoshoot during her deployment to Iraq, Jan. 16, 2017.
JASON YOUNG/U.S. ARMY PHOTO

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