Guard member marries via teleconference

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(Host) A small bouquet of purple flowers on a white tablecloth set with two unlit candles. These were the only hints that a small conference room at the National Guard headquarters in Colchester would be the scene of an unusual wedding ceremony.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Chaplin) “Today we use new means of communication enabling us to share the celebration of a relationship that is ages old…”

(Zind) Joanne Packer and Leon Ensalada were married Thursday in front of a small group of family and friends. There was no music, no walk down the aisle, and no elaborate wedding dress. The bride wore a red shawl. The groom wore fatigues. He was thousands of miles away in Afghanistan. Ensalada is a Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard; one of about fifty Vermont guard members stationed in Afghanistan.

The Waitsfield couple exchanged their vows over a teleconferencing link between Kabul and Colchester. Ensalada’s slightly fuzzy, hurky jerky image appeared on a large wall mounted screen. The time it took for words to travel from one side of the world to the other created a few suspenseful moments.

(Chaplin) “Lee, will you have Joanne to be your wife and will you love her faithfully forever? If so, please answer I will.”
(Long pause, nervous laughter)
(Chaplin) “I’ll try again.”
(Ensalada) “I will. I will, I will, I will!”

(Zind) Ensalada is a former Green Beret who served in Vietnam. After September 11, the 55-year-old doctor joined the Vermont Army Guard as a part-time member. Last November he was sent to Afghanistan. Packer says the couple had been talking about getting married, but the uncertainty of Ensalada’s deployment gave their plans more urgency.

(Packer) “Something about the backdrop of war, the separation, the danger, and the honor in what he’s doing that just seemed like now was the heart’s time.”

(Zind) Packer says the two plan another, more traditional ceremony when Ensalada returns from Afghanistan. What Thursday’s ceremony lacked in tradition, it made up for in feeling.

(Ensalada) “I love you, wife.” (Laughter, applause).
(Packer) “Come home to me.”

(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Colchester.

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