September 1, 2012
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan
Weddings are generally associated with spring and summer, champagne and cake. They are new beginnings and grand celebrations with family and friends, not camouflage uniforms, mortar rounds and danger of hostile fire.
However, for one Army couple getting married, the “wedding” was light on champagne and heavy on Army decorum. With a lot of research, emailing, several long distant phone calls and countless piles of paperwork, they were married while in Afghanistan.
It is safe to say weddings do not happen very often in a combat zone. In fact, military chaplains do not perform marriages in theater, so after consulting with their leadership and legal department at Bagram Airfield, the Soldiers found a way to legally express their love for one another.
Sgt. Drew Fidler, 27, from Glen Rock, N.J., and Spc. Michelle Williams, 27, from Auburndale, Fla., were married by double-proxy, Aug. 22, at Bagram Airfield by a company named “A Big Sky Event” in Bigfork, Mont.
“I think weddings are pretty much for other people,” said Williams, a health care specialist (combat medic) with Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, stationed at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. “All that really matters is marrying the person you love.”
Marriage by double-proxy is a process where all the required state forms and licenses are obtained and filled out online and two designated proxies stand in for the bride and groom. A marriage ceremony is performed by a non-denominational minister, and within a few weeks a legal marriage certificate is sent to the happy couple in another state or country.
“We’ve known we wanted to get married for a long time,” said Fidler, an infantryman with the deputy command general support team, DHHB, 1st ID, also stationed at Bagram. “We just didn’t want to wait any longer, so this worked out perfectly.”
The nuptials were celebrated with an impromptu wedding reception on the rooftop of the Joint Operation Center building located at the Combined Joint Task Force -1 compound at Bagram.
In attendance were a small group of friends and co-workers who were happy to help celebrate with non-alcoholic beer and a wedding cake baked by Brig. Gen. Felix Gedney’s wife back at Fort Riley, Kan.
Gedney, the deputy commanding general-Support of 1st ID, CJTF-1 and Regional Command East, Afghanistan, said his wife wanted to bake the cake herself and his son made an Army figurine decoration to place on top, alongside decorative doves.
“I was intrigued and pleased that Montana offered a double-proxy wedding for service members to get married downrange,” said Gedney. “It’s a great story about two great American Soldiers, both serving their country in Afghanistan. They can now look forward to life as a military family and I wish them both the best for the future.”
Proxy marriages are not that uncommon for military members as they are frequently stationed abroad and are not able to join their bride- or groom-to-be physically. Nonetheless, double-proxy marriages are something of an anomaly.
Williams, a graduate of the University of South Florida, said they plan on having a ceremony on a beach in Florida within the next couple of years to celebrate with their family.
“It feels awesome, amazing,” said Fidler. “It’s special to get married here at Bagram Airfield. I never thought it was possible.”