Before Air Force 2nd Lt. John Avrett and fiancé Meghan Kinney ever won the Salute To Love dream wedding contest, the fairy tale elements of the story were already in place. Danielle Steel and Nicholas Sparks together could not have dreamed up a story this good if they were locked a Hallmark shop.
Picture this: Handsome Air Force Academy cadet stands up to leave coffee shop in downtown Colorado Springs. He sees fantastic blonde and spends the next half hour working up his courage to speak to her. Turns out that she is captain of the U.S. National Synchronized Swim Team training for the Olympics (I am not making this up.) Here is the way John describes their meeting:
Meghan had actually never heard of the Air Force Academy, and had little exposure to the military lifestyle. We talked for hours about her travels to competitions in China,Russia, Italy, Spain and my experiences jumping out of airplanes, running the Leadville 100, and my plans to travel to Thailand as a volunteer for disadvantaged youth.After their first date, John tells his academy roommate that this is love at first sight and that he will marry this girl. Then tragedy strikes. John writes:
On October 7th, Meghan called from the Olympic Training Center, as trainers, coaches and doctors frantically discussed the results of a routine x-ray for nagging knee pain that revealed a tumor the size of a golf ball behind her knee cap. The tumor had eviscerated from the bone into the soft tissue of her knee and had possibly (they feared) metastasized to the rest of her body.John and Meghan decide to tackle the cancer treatment together. Meghan moves from California to Ohio where John is stationed. The next nine months were filled with appointments, week-long hospital stays, one major nine-hour surgery and hundreds of drives from Wright Patterson AFB to Columbus. The couple spent over 100 nights in the hospital together.
In his application for Salute to Love sponsored by Operation Homefront and OBXbrides.com John wrote about how he proposed to Meghan in Dayton’s popular Press Coffee Bar. John prearranged with the owners to play Train’s “Marry Me.”
“ As we sat down she started flipping through a magazine, and minutes later the song came on. Immediately, she looked at me as my eyes started to well but I kept my composure. Janelle called out our order and we both stood up to get it. At the counter were two glasses of champagne and a burgundy red ring box with the engagement ring I had gotten sparkling brilliantly under the bright lights. Tears instantly flowed from both of our faces as I took a knee. I don’t even remember what I said, but all she did was say yes! We hugged and we cried and the whole coffee shop cheered.”Paying for the wedding was more of a problem. Due to the enormously high costs associated with her cancer treatment, the couple was faced with a very limited budget.
In the meantime, OBXbrides.com, the Sanderling Resort and Spa and a dozen other Outer Banks vendors got inspired by Joining Forces. The group decided that they wanted to offer a dream wedding valued at $120,000 to a military couple. The three- day event would include a bachelor/bachelorette outing, rehearsal dinner and farewell brunch, a delectable cake, lush flowers, multiple photography sessions and the officiant.. A wedding dress was also donated by Yes To The Dress.
The OBXbrides.com group joined up with Operation Homefront and collected applications from military couples. Over 102,000 people voted among the top ten finalists. John and Megan won. On April 14 John and Meghan were married in front of friends and family at the Sanderling Hotel and Spa. Wrote John,
“As my career in the Air Force blossoms I know that I will need to look no further than the person beside me for my biggest inspiration.”Best wishes to this bride and groom—and all the other military couples starting their lives together this year. May your wedding day be just one of a million happy times you will spend together in your military life.