The bride ditched her white wedding dress for military fatigues.
"Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do."
Not only do those three characteristics define the Air National Guard, but they also ring true for one selfless Florida couple, who nixed their dream wedding plans in order to assist with Hurricane Irma relief efforts.
Lauren Durham, 24, and Michael Davis, 26, are both senior airmen of the National Guard. The second weekend of September, they were supposed to become husband and wife during an intimate, ocean-front ceremony. But as the eye of Hurricane Irma quickly made its way through the Florida Keys and along the state's southwest coast, the couple were forced to change their wedding location and act on their passion to help others at such a devastating time.
The Guard duo ended up getting married on Sunday, September 10, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida—just mere hours before being deployed into the strong winds, severe storm surge, and torrential rains from the Category 4 storm. The bride opted for her fatigues instead of the "poofy, flowy princess gown" she originally planned to wear, with the groom wearing matching camouflage.
"I love wearing this uniform, so this works," Durham said.
Instead of exchanging their vows underneath a decorated arch on the sand, the couple, who have been together for five years, said their “I Dos” in an expansive hangar. They were surrounded by rubber rescue boats, paramedics, and rescue workers seated in black folding chairs, as a fellow Guard member officiated the ceremony. Unfortunately, though, their family and friends couldn’t be there to witness the last-minute nuptials.
"I think it will be quite a surprise for them, but I think they’ll understand," Durham said. "It was very, very impromptu."
While there wasn’t a towering wedding cake or a fancy reception, Durham said they ate snacks and Skittles that were in the packaged Meals Ready-to-Eat (MREs).
As far as any regrets, the couple doesn’t have any, adding that it will be a great story to tell their children one day.
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"Service before self," Davis said.
Many Floridians would be happy the first-responders were able to let that simple and humble principle guide them, as the two are actively on duty, giving back to others in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.