LSA Anaconda couple gets hitched on base
Stars and Stripes March 4, 2008
BALAD, Iraq — Once upon a time, in Anaconda, there were two soldiers in love.
He was a sergeant named Alhaji Savage who kept track of parts for complex flying machines. She was a specialist, now named Karma Savage, who fed those machines the fuel that keeps them in the air.
The two came from Katterbach, Germany, to the middle of the war. He was from Sierra Leone; she from Panama. But they cared about each other deeply and wanted to start their lives together. So they decided to get married right away.
Yet Logistics Support Area Anaconda, a large U.S. base near Balad, was not a place where people got married. It just wasn’t done.
Karma was working in far off Ramadi most of the time. Besides, there was a war going on. Trolls and other grumpy characters told Alhaji and Karma that they should just wait until they returned home.
The couple knew better, though.
“It’s love,” Alhaji said. “If you’re in love, you’ll do what your heart says, and I love her so much.”
“If you love the person, and if you have the opportunity, you should just do it,” Karma said.
In this hamlet, there also lived a kind chaplain named Gabriel Mizerani. He had talked often with the couple about their upcoming marriage and knew that they were ready. So, the captain was determined to help them go through with the wedding.
Together the three searched high and low for a way to make the wedding happen. At long last, with help from the JAG office, they discovered that Montana would give the marriage its official seal.
The couple still had much planning to do, though. Alhaji needed a suit, which he had made in Anaconda. Karma needed a dress, which she ordered online. With Cinderellalike magic, it fit perfectly right out of the box.
Yet they weren’t alone in their preparations. Friends in the couple’s unit, the 412th Aviation Support Battalion, heard about their quest and came forward to help. A fellow soldier offered to give the bride away. Even their commander, Lt. Col. Sam Hamontree III, volunteered to don his kilt and play the wedding processional on a set of bagpipes.
“The military’s not your family. But at the same time, it’s like your family,” Alhaji said.
And so, on Jan. 15, Karma at last marched down the aisle of Freedom Chapel to the colonel’s blaring bagpipes. He joked that it was the most heavily armed wedding he’d seen.
Afterward, everyone celebrated with pizza, cola and cake from the post exchange. Friends taped a “Just Married” sign to one of the five-ton fueling trucks that Karma drives. Then the couple had a three-day “honeymoon” in Anaconda where they simply enjoyed a break from working long days.
It wasn’t a royal wedding. But like any fairy tale day, it was one the couple — and their fellow soldiers — will always treasure.
“The lord made a beautiful love story,” the chaplain said. “It’ll touch my heart for a long time.”
So although Alahji and Karma are still in Anaconda amid the war, they are already living happily ever after.