Military couples find love in a time of war
There was no chapel, no white dress, no rings. For Army soldiers Colleen McNulty and Jorge Villalobos, the wedding was in a Texas courthouse. The bride and groom wore Army fatigues and combat boots, and the couple shared love instead of diamonds and gold.
Their honeymoon was spent in separate his-and-her barracks.
"It was horrible, horrible," Jorge recalled of the May 1 honeymoon, which came a month after the couple finished basic training.
The newlyweds, who head Saturday to their assigned base in Fort Bliss, Texas, have rarely spent a day apart -- except for basic training, which put them four hours away from each other.
The Broward couple met in 2006, began dating a year later and enlisted in November.
But Army love during wartime means one or both spouses will be deployed overseas. Their vow is more like, "Until death or deployment do us part."
"We expect it," said Colleen, 25, formerly of Lauderhill, about the time apart. "When we go over to Iraq, it might be easier to be separated, knowing the other person is safe at home."
Another possibility: deployment at the same time to different parts of Iraq. "It's not something we're really going to enjoy. But it's part of our job, and it's something we're willing to do," Colleen said.
The newlyweds met while working at a Starbucks in Sunrise. (Colleen, 25, worked the 5 a.m. morning shift. Jorge, 22, would close the coffee shop.).
It took Jorge, who lived in Weston, a year to ask her out and a few tries to get a date. When the two finally went out, it was a marathon.
Dinner at a fancy Brazilian steakhouse and conversation that lasted until 4 a.m.
That night, Jorge couldn't sleep. Neither could Colleen because the Sunday school teacher had only a few hours until her class at Pines Baptist Church.
Last November, the couple joined the Army together: first Jorge for two years and then Colleen two weeks later for a six-year deployment.
Although it's rare for couples to enlist at the same time, recruiters say, the Army offers the Married Army Couples Program, which allows couples to share the same stateside base.
More than 20,000 military couples currently serve in the U.S. Army.
The majority of these couples -- 79 percent -- enjoy joint domicile assignments, according to Army records.
The Villaloboses will work as healthcare specialists, like Army emergency medical technicians.
For Jorge, who came to Florida at 14 from Maracaibo, Venezuela, joining the Army was a teenage dream.
Colleen had dreamed of other things: missionary work in Latin America, teaching elementary school.
The Villaloboses say they both wanted to do something they were proud of. Other draws: adventure for Jorge, a college loan repayment program for Colleen.
"Joining the Army and getting married. We'll be able to have a better life together," said Colleen, adding that some family and friends were skeptical about her decision.
Jorge plans to reenlist after he obtains his citizenship, then finish his degree and enroll in a physician's assistant or doctor program. She plans to become an officer and eventually return to teaching through the military.
On their first anniversary, they hope to have a real church wedding.
One with wildflower bouquets, a homemade cake and rings.