Military weddings surge on South Shore

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Military personnel tying the knot in South Lake Tahoe prove all is fair in love and war.

Coinciding with an increase in licenses being issued, wedding chapels including Caesars Tahoe, Forest Suites and the Fantasy Inn have experienced a surge in the number of men and women in the armed forces who are choosing to get hitched as the war in Iraq continues.

However, the Carson City Marriage Bureau reports no increase in licenses issued.

The El Dorado County Clerk's Office reports wedding licenses have gone up from 269 in January to 474 in February. More than three-quarters of those people end up getting married in Tahoe.

There's no breakdown available from the county to distinguish between licenses for civilian or military personnel, but management at the wedding chapels have witnessed a noticeable number of newlyweds in uniform.

The Fantasy Inn has tripled the number of weddings for military personnel this year.

A Sacramento-area couple has set their wedding day for July, with the understanding that date could come sooner if the groom's September orders to ship out are bumped up.

Airman 1st Class Tim Shockley, a fuel specialist who is stationed at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville with the father of the bride-to-be, Jill Twining, said they'll make a concerted effort to get married before he is sent overseas.

"It seems like it's happening to everybody who wants to rush into this," said Monique Twining, the mother of the bride.

Shockley asked for permission from Richard Twining -- a sergeant -- before proposing to his girlfriend on Valentine's Day.

Since then, there's been a whirlwind of activity, including Jill Twining trying on 50 dresses and making plans to get a dog while Shockley is away.

Richard Twining -- who's served for 18 years -- and Shockley who's been in a nearly two years expect to be on their missions long after the war ends.

"It's possible we'll be there over an extended period of time," Twining said. "I think it makes it better that he's going with me."

The prospect of a long-term military commitment concerns the bride.

What's her worst fear?

"That he's not coming home," she said, tears welling up in her eyes as she placed her head on her fiance's shoulders. "But it's pointless to worry about it until it happens."

The Twinings, who consider themselves a close-knit family, have made an intensive effort to stick together during these challenging times.

The family has crossed into this territory before.

The Twinings' son-in-law, Joe Braswell, is serving in the Air Force in the world's hot spot, while their daughter, Kristi, awaits his safe return.

"So far the kids are hanging in there. The guys could be called at any time," Monique Twining said.

They'll take a honeymoon when Shockley returns.

For all the uncertainty of war, the Twining parents -- high school sweethearts -- expressed no apprehension that the two young adults are in love.

The news of the upcoming wedding moved fast on the Air Force base, with Shockley's buddies expressing disbelief.

"They said, 'I can't believe you're doing it,' but I know they're happy for me," he said, while hugging his future bride.

He said for every fellow serviceman who's already married, there's another who's considering making the leap.

Katrin DeBacker, vice president of the Lake Tahoe Wedding and Honeymoon Association, has heard from local chapels of a significant increase in weddings among military personnel. This includes DeBacker's employer, Forest Suites Resort.

An Army specialist from Monterey, Justin Robinson, has scheduled his wedding at the hotel with Leslie Woldridge of Chicago for next month.

Robinson wants to marry his longtime girlfriend because the military allows married couples more access overseas, he said.


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