Military weddings surge in South Shore

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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE -- Military personnel tying the knot prove that all is fair in love and war.

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

The El Dorado County Clerk's Office reports that wedding licenses surged from 269 in January to 474 in February. More than three-quarters of those people get married in Tahoe.

In Carson City, the Marriage Bureau reported no particular increase in licenses issued.

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

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

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A Sacramento, Calif.-area couple has set their wedding day for July, with the understanding that date could be bumped up if the groom's September orders to ship outcome through.

Airman 1st Class Tim Shockley, a fuel specialist stationed at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, Calif., and Sgt. Richard Twining, the father of 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 Sgt. Twining before proposing to Jill Twining 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.

Sgt. Twining, who has served 18 years, and Shockley, who's been in nearly two years, expect to still be on their missions long after the war ends.

"It's possible we'll be there over an extended period of time," Sgt. 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 tearfully. "But it's pointless to worry about it until it happens."

Jill Twining and Shockley will take a honeymoon after he returns.

The Twinings 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 in the Air Force in the world's hot spot, while 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.

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 at Beale, 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.

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

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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 her 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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