Marine Liftoff Exacts a Toll--Wedding Bells

From Associated Press

A small wedding chapel two miles from the main gate of the Marine Corps base here has done a booming business in the last week as American troops prepare to leave for the Middle East.

"I've been doing weddings at 1 o'clock in the morning at home in my yard" to accommodate last-minute requests, said Shirley Cowart, who conducts the services.

Her phone now begins ringing for appointments at 5:30 a.m.

Since American troops began embarking for the Middle East last week, Cowart has performed more weddings than she normally does in a month.

"It's very, very emotional. I think their happiness is just a cover-up. They are all just very scared," she said.

Melinda Davis, 31, and Cpl. Lee Swain, 21, were among those who exchanged vows at the chapel.

"Due to his deployment in several days, we've decided to go ahead and get married," the bride said. "We'll have the big wedding when he gets back."

Deborah Castaneda, 30, and her new husband, Marc, 23, were wed last Wednesday night, even though they had planned a big church wedding for September. He left for the Middle East on Sunday.

"I've been crying since (last) Tuesday, the minute I found out that guys from Twentynine Palms might be going and that my husband might be going with them," Castaneda said. "I spent my honeymoon preparing my husband's will and power of attorney.

"He joined the Marine Corps to protect his country," she added. "I know why we are there, but I want my husband back."

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