Heartland Couple Puts Marriage Vows Before Call to Duty

As tensions heat up overseas, thousands of service men and women across the country are getting called to duty.  Many of them are leaving home for more than a year at a time.

Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Jody Benbrook, of McLeansboro, Illinois, got his surprise call on Monday night.  The young soldier was only given four days to say his goodbyes.  But Benbrook and his bride-to-be, Debbie McCain of McClure, found a way to put their wedding vows before the call to duty.

It's been quite a whirlwind relationship for Debbie, the SIU student getting ready to graduate, and Jody, the Cairo police officer.  The couple met last January, fell in love, and was engaged to be married this June.  “We met by chance on a blind date,” explains Debbie.  “A student at the high school I work at brought a phone number to me and said, ‘I want you to meet my sergeant.’  Debbie says they’ve been together ever since.   

On Thursday night, that sergeant was slipping into the side door of the Galilee Baptist Church in Wolf Lake, uniform in arm, and ready to marry his onetime blind date.  “There's a thousand things going through my head,” he told Heartland News before the ceremony.  “I'm marrying a very beautiful woman that I love more than anything in the world.  The fact that shocks me is that I’m going to be away from her for a year plus.”  “We had promised each other that we'd get married in case this happened,” explained Debbie. “So we threw this wedding together,”

The wedding was originally planned for June 21st.  Debbie had dreamed of a lavish affair at her home church in Cape Girardeau, complete with lots of bridesmaids and a big, fluffy gown.  But when Jody learned he'd be long gone by then, those dreams went by the wayside.  The most important issue became simply getting married.  Jody was told that once he leaves on Friday, it could be more than a year before he sees his bride again.  “I was told that I was going to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin,” he tells Heartland News.  “And from there, possibly to ‘the sandbox,’ which means the desert.”  Considering the current tensions in Iraq, Debbie had a hard time holding back tears at the thought of what lies ahead.  “Right now is such a happy time,” she sniffed.  “Then the next year may be the saddest.”

That's why Debbie and Jody say they wanted to live January 16th to the fullest. They got on the phone and told everyone they knew about the sudden change in plans.  Many friends and co-workers sprung into action, helping the couple coordinate a traditional ceremony at the small Union County church and a reception in the Shawnee High School cafeteria.  Somehow, in just two days, they were able to make it happen.  “We love each other,” says Debbie about why they felt they had to do it.  “And he wanted to know that I would be taken care of, just in the horrible chance that something happened.”  Jody himself got a little emotional at that thought.  “Nobody ever knows if you'll get to come home.  That's why.”