432nd WG Families achieve pandemic matrimony

If you had asked two couples within the 432nd Wing where they would have seen themselves in March of 2020 a year ago, they would have told you they’d be saying their vows at the weddings of their dreams amidst friends and family; not social distancing amid a pandemic.

Supporting the Hunter family is one of the 432nd Wing’s mission priorities and with the help of their leadership, friends and family both couples were able to overcome obstacles caused by COVID-19 and be happily married.

Newlyweds Maj. Corey, 732nd Operations Group director of staff and his wife, Katie, stand together soon after their wedding ceremony in St. George, Utah, April 4, 2020. Corey and Katie had been planning their marriage for over a year when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled their wedding in New Zealand. (Courtesy photograph)

Corey and Katie
Maj. Corey, 732nd Operations Group director of staff, and his wife, Katie, first met seven years ago through mutual friends while stationed together at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

“I was a C-17 pilot, and she was a logistics officer,” he explained. “Our friends kept trying to introduce us and saying that we would be great for each other. When we finally met up, I asked her out and she said she was busy the next day. So, I asked if she would take a rain check after I got back since I was deploying the day after.”

After Corey’s deployment, some dating, an engagement and wedding planning during a later deployment Katie had to Afghanistan, it seemed their New Zealand wedding was within the couple’s sights. Then came the tide of COVID-19 change.

“We initially felt pretty devastated,” Katie said. “It was Friday, the 13th of March, and we were supposed to get on a plane to New Zealand for our destination wedding that following Tuesday.”

According to Corey, COVID-19 restrictions opened their eyes to what was truly important to them. Like many others who found themselves socially distancing, they were able to take a step back and analyze what really mattered in their lives: their health, each other and their family.

Even though COVID-19 resulted in the closure the Las Vegas marriage license office, the couple continued searching for a way.

Newlyweds 2nd Lt. Savannah, left, 51st Intel Squadron officer in-charge of targets, and 1st Lt. Riley, right, 482nd Attack Squadron intelligence operations supervisor, walk down the aisle after getting married in Sumter, S.C. Riley and Savannah were able to marry thanks to the support of their family and their Air Force leadership. (Courtesy photograph)

Riley and Savannah
First Lt. Riley, 482nd Attack Squadron intelligence operations supervisor, and 2nd Lt. Savannah, 51st Intel Squadron officer in-charge of targets, found themselves facing a similar situation thanks to COVID-19.

The couple met two years ago at their intelligence training school at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, and were fortunate to be able to get the same follow-on assignment to Shaw AFB, S.C., where they also decided to take the next step in their relationship.

“We got engaged last September,” Riley said. “I wanted our wedding to be the traditional fare and not do the courthouse thing if possible, as far as we knew everything was on track for an end of March wedding. Then we started hearing more and more about the pandemic situation.”

Savannah said she was glad they were able to go through with their wedding thanks to their Air Force leadership and the support of their families.

“We initially thought about pushing the wedding date, but we were both mentally and emotionally prepared to be married after being engaged for more than six months,” Savannah said. “The hardest part was wondering if we were going to get married without our parents there. Once we got the Ok from our leadership for guests, that was the deciding factor and we were able to get married with our parents there.”

Happily Ever After
To achieve marital bliss, Corey and Katie worked an exception to the policy to be able to marry in St. George, Utah, with only a couple of key guests.

Riley and Savannah were approved by their leadership to marry with close family present, in Sumter, S.C., which they immediately followed with a honeymoon in quarantine to ensure no illness was carried back into their squadrons.

Both couples had to cancel their larger wedding and honeymoon plans; however, ultimately everyone walked away from the ceremonies married, and in good health.

The military lifestyle can have a significant impact on family and marriage, and COVID-19 has proven to be no exception; however, the couples attribute their wedding-day successes to not only the understanding and flexibility of friends and family, but the support from their leadership to achieve a happily ever after.


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