It turns out, sometimes, second weddings are what every girl dreams about. Or at least that was the case with Debbie Barron who describes her first wedding, just last year, as less than fairy tale.
"It was just really fast in the courthouse," she says, "Nothing romantic the way I thought it would be, just a quick signing of papers and we were out."
The reason for haste was her Marine husband, Josue Barron, was about to deploy to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, along with the financial benefits of military marriages comes the fear of what no spouse wants to imagine. That fear came true last year when two Marines knocked on Debbie's door.
"I just automatically thought he was dead," she said.
The Marines told Debbie, her husband was actually alive, but barely.
Josue had been trying to help a friend out of a trench when an improvised explosive device went off changing life in less than a second. The IED took Josue's left eye and his left leg.
Rarely are the vows of two newlyweds tested so soon.
"I never thought we would be normal again, a normal couple," says Debbie, "I just thought that was going to be our life forever in a hospital or in a wheelchair."
"It was tough at first," says Josue,"I couldn't see, and she was my eyes, and she was doing everything."
In time, Josue was fitted with a prosthetic leg, a glass eye with his Marine unit's symbol, and figured out there was still a lot he could do. He's taken up skiing, and racing hand bikes. In fact, if you ask him whether he would change all of this, given the chance to go back in time, he'd give you the answer you'd expect from a Marine. And he means it.
"I wouldn't take it back for anything, and I don't regret it," he says, "It's dangerous, but that's the life we chose."
His wife, on the other hand would have changed one thing.
"I wanted a big white dress," says Debbie, "I wanted all of my family to be there, to walk down the aisle."
Debbie says when they got married the first time, they vowed to do it again when Josue returned from Afghanistan. After life changed, the wedding they always dreamed of, became the wedding they could never afford. Still, it was the wedding someone else thought they certainly deserved.
"I thought it was a joke," says Debbie laughing about the news she got during a visit to Los Willows in Fallbrook.
"It brings me to tears because I feel very emotional about the corps," says Los Willows owner, Al Ransom.
Ransom is a retired Marine pilot whose career path went from flying jets to shuttling brides across his lake on a pontoon boat. He and his wife, Cathie, own 44 acres, and host more than 100 weddings a year.
"There's no same wedding," he says, "Everybody has their own dream."
And in this case, the bottom line was more important than the business. On Sunday January 15 Josue and Debbie got their dream wedding. Ransom estimates it was about a $50,000 wedding for free. From food to flowers, photography, and all the little details, the entire wedding was donated.
"No one gives more than the military man, nor receives less," says Ransom, "It's just been very touching and very moving to me, and it's an experience that in my opinion was meant to be."
Every wedding is special for its own reason. In this case, it's likely because this is a young couple that already has a pretty good understanding of the 'In Sickness and in Health' part, and an outlook wise beyond their years.
"He's a good guy, or I wouldn't have married him twice," says Debbie, "He's an inspiration and I think we're lucky."
Al Ransom says there were so many businesses that deserve a lot of the credit for donating their time and their services. Here is a list of those that made the wedding possible.
Ranch Events Catering, Pro Sound DJ's, photography by Shadow Catcher Imagery, videography by Black Tie Productions, makeup by Marqui Artistry, My Picture Booth, wedding favors from Kathy Lathus, hair by Veronica Rivera from Salon 29, La Estancia Inn, and boat decorations from Wanna Party?, and flowers by Blooming Grace Floral.