As Hurricane Irma thrashed Florida over the weekend, destroying homes and leaving millions without electricity, two members of the Air National Guard exchanged wedding vows in Orlando before a gathering of fellow guardsmen awaiting orders to begin search and rescue operations.
Senior Airmen Lauren Durham and Michael Davis, both medical technicians with the Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Wing Medical Detachment-1, were supposed to get married the following week on Jacksonville Beach. Instead, the couple volunteered to assist with the hurricane response efforts — and on Sept. 10, they tied the knot in the Orange County Convention Center, the staging area for the Florida National Guard’s Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Emergency Response Force-Package.
“We volunteered to come out here and support Florida,” Durham, 24, told Florida National Guard Public Affairs. “We wanted to help out with the hurricane and give some relief to the citizens.”
Durham and Davis have been together for five years and also work together at the UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville. The couple told Fox News that they had been eating breakfast on the morning of Sept. 10 when a friend suggested they get married in the middle of the storm.
“It started out as a joke,” Davis, 26, told Fox News. “And it turned out to be really great.”
Tech Sgt. Ashley Ridgeway, a notary, officiated the wedding and the rest of the unit served as witnesses. Not present were the couples’ families and civilian friends; although, Durham and Davis plan to reschedule the original wedding. The time and location of that ceremony will depend on the severity of the hurricane damage.
Durham and Davis are among the roughly 4,000 Florida Army and Air National Guard troops who have been activated to assist with emergency response operations in areas affected by Hurricane Irma. Thousands more guardsmen from across the country are also helping with the operation.
“The Air Force lives by the creed ‘service before self,’” Davis told Florida National Guard Public Affairs. “So that’s what we’re here for: to put the citizens first.”
The hurricane made landfall in Florida on Sunday after tearing through the Caribbean islands, where it killed at least 27 people. By Monday morning, Irma had weakened to a tropical storm but continues to wreak havoc as it marches northward toward Georgia.