By Staff Sgt. Robert J Strain (3rd ESC)June 18, 2007
FORT HOOD, Texas Aca,!" Aca,!A"I do.Aca,!A? Those two small words have been spoken throughout generations, marking the beginning of a new life for the couple who speaks them.
For one couple who spoke these words June 16 at the 1st Cavalry Division's headquarters building here, they reached not only across the generations, but across thousands of miles, as well.
First Team intelligence analyst and Sacramento, Calif., native Spc. Matthew Ludwig and Honolulu native Lilani Keikiaina tied the knot through a video teleconference ceremony broadcast from Fort Hood to Ludwig in Baghdad.
Ludwig and Keikiaina have been together for two years, first meeting each other at the intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., in 2005, Keikiaina said.
She explained that she was at a doctor's appointment at the hospital on Fort Huachuca, and Ludwig was the driver sent to pick her up.
Aca,!A"I asked him if he was my coachman, picking me up with the white chariot,Aca,!A? Keikiaina laughed, referring to the white vans driven by unit duty drivers.
After that they started getting to know each other and soon became best friends, but it wasn't until after their training at Fort Huachuca that the couple started dating each other.
Keikiaina was stationed with the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, and Ludwig was stationed with the First Team here.
Aca,!A"So, he started coming down [to San Antonio] on the weekends, and I would come up here and visit him,Aca,!A? she said.
During that time, Ludwig got to know Keikiaina's two daughters Corina, 13, and Cierra, 7.
Keikiaina explained that they had planned on waiting until after he returned from Iraq to get married, but when the extension was announced they decided to go ahead and do it now.
For Ludwig, June 16 holds a very special meaning. This year would mark his grandparents' 51st wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, they both passed away before realizing their dream of seeing their grandchildren get married, Keikiaina said.
They even went ahead and bought wedding gifts for all their grandchildren when they did get married.
In order to honor his grandparents, Ludwig always wanted to get married on the 16th of June.
With Keikiaina's two children and the difference in time between Texas and Baghdad meant that when the couple got married, it meant that Ludwig also became a father on Father's Day there in Baghdad.
Keikiaina described the ceremony as bittersweet. She was glad to see Ludwig, who she hadn't seen since his rest and recuperation leave in February, but at the same time he was still thousands of miles away.
The ceremony, which was brought together by the efforts of the family readiness group of the division's intelligence section, had started out as a small ceremony using webcams at the house of Mandi Stai, the sectionAca,!a,,cs FRG leader.
Keikiaina is a Solider now, but will be making the transition to civilian later this summer when she gets out of the Army.
Aca,!A"I wanted to make sure I was a part of helping her through that transition [from Soldier to spouse]. She didn't have access to all of the stuff that we had, she didn't have the webcam, she doesn't have the FRG support, she didn't have anything,Aca,!A? Stai said.
The FRG wanted to ensure that Keikiaina was welcomed into the First Team family properly, and let her know that they are there for her.
Aca,!A"We just kind of thought that it's tough enough starting out with being apart,Aca,!A? said Molly Kaufman, an FRG member and one of the coordinators of the wedding.
Aca,!A"If there's a way that we as a family readiness group and as a rear detachment rear command can make a family's life a little bit easier for something special like this, then we're going to do whatever we can,Aca,!A? Kaufman said.
After vows were exchanged and the ceremony was complete, the newlyweds were given time to talk to each other using the VTC, although Keikiaina said there wasn't much to tell each other Aca,!" other than Aca,!A"I love you.Aca,!A?
As a final surprise to the newlyweds, the unit sponsor Aca,!" Toyota of Killeen Aca,!" donated a three-day honeymoon getaway for the couple at Lake Tahoe, Calif., in February, after he returns from Iraq.
The couple plans to renew their vows on their first anniversary next June 16 during a big ceremony with all their family and friends.