Caroline Holland and Jeffry Wilson planned to be married last June when Woodmill Winery would be full of grapes and green leaves.
But the United States government had other plans. Wilson, who first left for Iraq three years ago, learned his June leave was canceled.
While a wedding in January wouldnâ€™t be as picturesque, the couple decided to tie the knot as soon as possible. It was the fourth date they set for the wedding.
Tuesday evening, the couple finally became husband and wife.
â€œI feel great,â€ Jeffrey said. â€œitâ€™s just a sigh of relief to be home, even for a short while.â€
The couple, who became engaged last February after meeting at Winn-Dixie, where they both worked (before the Florida-based supermarket chain withdrew from North Carolina), talk on the phone only once a month.
They can e-mail two or three times a week and send cards and letters, but distance makes communication difficult.
â€œItâ€™s been horrible,â€ Caroline said. â€œItâ€™s been hard. Iâ€™ve cried a lot.â€
As a part of Convoy Security, Jeffrey is stationed in Iraq, but travels wherever the action is. His job is to help protect other soldiers under attack.
â€œYour adrenaline takes over,â€ he said of the fighting.
His family at home has spent the past three years worrying.
â€œI donâ€™t watch the news,â€ said his stepfather, Dennis Hefner.
Hefner says the family has two goals: â€œWeâ€™ve got him married, and once he comes back from Iraq, heâ€™s not going back.â€
Every one is happy to see Jeffrey safe at home, even if it is for only two weeks.
He came back to the United States Friday, the same day wedding plans were finalized.
â€œWe hurried up and tried to get ready,â€ said Trudy Helms with Woodmill Winery.
None of the earlier stress seemed to matter Tuesday night, however. The mood was festive and light. The couple didnâ€™t even have cold feet.
â€œIâ€™m not nervous,â€ Caroline said. â€œIâ€™m very happy and excited.â€
Jeffrey was excited to finally be able to marry the woman he loves.
â€œSheâ€™s there for me, and sheâ€™s a very caring and loving person, and sheâ€™ll do anything for me,â€ he said.
Heâ€™s also happy with the knowledge she has a strong support system here in Lincolnton â€“ both her family and her new in-laws.
â€œItâ€™s a relief knowing if something does happen, thereâ€™s someone there to help her,â€ Jeffrey said.
He hopes the next time he comes home from Iraq, it will be for good. In the meantime, heâ€™s kept on his toes.
â€œWe stay busy, and thatâ€™s the way a lot of us like it,â€ he said. â€œThe busier we are, the more time goes by.â€
During the rest of his stay in the United States, Jeffrey will enjoy Las Vegas with his new wife.
And while Caroline will be sad to see her husband go, she admits the fact heâ€™s a soldier was one of the things that initially attracted her to him.
â€œI thought that was admirable that he had been there, and I really admire all the soldiers that go there and serve their country,â€ she said.
by Sarah Grano