By Brittny Drye
The love story of Erwynn and Will isn’t filled with candlelit dinners. Or romantic weekend excursions. It’s filled with secrecy, rejection from the community and interventions.
And it ends happily ever after as they become the first gay couple in history to wed on a military base.
Erwynn and Will met in their local Baptist church in New Jersey … a place where homophobia was preached from the pulpit every Sunday. Yet, there was no denying the attraction and the two quickly formed a friendship. Though they had tried to push down their “gay” feelings, in fear of being out and risk losing their mock lives, friendship turned into flirtations during a church retreat.
One day, Will came home to find his family, friends and church members waiting for him at his home, knowing his secret and hoping to “cure” him with prayer to save his marriage with his wife. Terrified, he fled to Erwynn’s home, where they began living in secret and fear. Any misstep and Erwynn could lose his military job thanks to the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. Dinner dates and grocery shopping became like a covert operations, and even when they traveled to nearby metropolitans, such as New York City or Philadelphia, they ran into people they knew. Nowhere was safe.
In the summer of 2011, after President Obama signed the “don’t ask don’t tell” repeal into law earlier that winter, they saw a light at the end of the tunnel. And Will got down on one knee and Erwynn to marry him.
Their lives are finally the picture-perfect setting they had always dreamed of and on June 23, 2012, they became husband and husband. The ceremony began with Eric Alva, who was the first U.S. serviceman seriously injured in the Iraq war—and later came out and fought to repeal DADT—giving an opening blessing and explaining the historic nature of the first same-sex ceremony on the base.
When the chaplain asks who is giving the grooms away, an awkward silence fills the room, as neither one of the grooms’ fathers are there, due to their rejection of the lifestyle. Suddenly, Erwynn and Will’s children shout “We do!” and the crowd cheers.
As the Christian ceremony winds down, they exchange their written vows. “I never met anyone that it was worth giving it all up for, until I met you,” Will says. “I give you my heart, my faith. I choose you today—forever and a day.”
Erwynn speaks about all the trials they’ve been through together. After choking up, Erwynn jokes, “I’m trying to keep my military composure.” He vows: “Just like I would fight for my country and sacrifice for it, and even die for my country as a member of the Air Force, I would do all of that for you. You are my last love, forever and a day.”
Read the full story at slate.com.
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