JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (Feb. 5, 2016) -- The French Theater, with high ceilings and a stage lined with flags, set the stage for a day of life changes Jan. 29. Staff Sergeant Phillip Vitela retired from the Army on Joint Base Lewis-McChord on his wedding day.
The two events on one day made sense when they took into account the guest list.
"We were originally going to get married last August, but with my retirement coming up, we knew people would have to come out again soon after that," he said. "It just made sense to have them both on one day so our Army family could also be a part of the celebration."
Once Kate brought up the unique idea, Phillip had to get approval from the I Corps protocol office and work with the unit chaplain. They also had to ensure family and friends without military IDs would be allowed onto the base for the ceremonies.
Once everything was approved, Phillip said, everything else fell into place. It was a lot smoother than a separate wedding would have been, he said.
THE FIRST CEREMONY
Vitela retired with 10 other Soldiers Jan. 29 in front of a nearly-full French Theater. All 11 retiring service members were called, with short bios read about their accomplishments. Each retiree received a Meritorious Service Medal, certificate and a flag for their service.
The spouses of each were also given a certificate and a pin or fresh bouquet of roses.
Colonel Mark A. Paget, deputy commander of the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, spoke at the retirement ceremony. He began by talking about key moments that occurred Jan. 29 in the years the Soldiers in the audience signed up for service.
The list went back to 1985 when the first version of the Windows operating system was sold and "Back to the Future" was the number one movie.
"These retirees, along with their loving supportive families you see here today have endured the hardships of multiple deployments, attended too
many memorial ceremonies, missed too many birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, school plays and soccer matches," Paget said. "The list goes on and on, as you all know. But it is time to relax because you have all done something that is truly remarkable -- you have served your country and done your very best doing so. Let's give these retirees a thunderous round of applause."
He went onto thank the families and service members for their service and sacrifice.
The 56th Army Band played songs throughout the ceremony. After the awards were given out, the band performed a rendition of "Old Soldiers Never Die," leading directly into "Auld Lang Syne."
When the theater cleared out of everyone except the wedding guests, it was time to set up for the final ceremony of the day.
THE SECOND CEREMONY
Vitela stayed in uniform for both ceremonies. The bride stood during his retirement event, then quickly went to change into her wedding dress.
Although Kate is from Olympia, where most of her family still reside, her new husband is not. Vitela's family came from California and Georgia.
The combined ceremonies also gave Kate's family a look at the new portion of their own.
After the ceremonies, the couple had a small reception for family and friends at their home in Olympia.
Vitela has contacts with the Lakewood and Tacoma Police Departments, where he hopes to work in the future. Kate will continue as a nursing supervisor at Providence Hospital.
"She is a civilian without any ties to the military through family, so this process has been really eye opening to what this life is like," Vitela said. "I think a lot of people who aren't on the inside of the military don't realize how much sacrifice and hard work goes into what we do. So, that's been a fantastic benefit to doing this (wedding) in such a unique way."