By TAMMIE TOLER
PRINCETON — On Sept. 21, Gina Mitchem and Dillon Roberts plan to say “I do.” In November, he deploys to Afghanistan.
The young Mercer County couple has faced challenges, through a meeting at college, Marine Corps basic training, diesel mechanic school and at times, a long-distance relationship, but they’ve persevered through the struggles and are working to find a home before the wedding and impending deployment.
From finances to finding a dress, Gina has had so much to think about that Valentine’s Day barely crossed her mind.
“I’m really excited to start planning the wedding, but it’s all so stressful. We’re trying to find a house, and I really worry about if he’s going to be OK over there,” Gina said this week.
Recently, a committed group of givers joined forces to smooth Gina’s transition from a college student to the wife of a U.S. Marine Corps Reservist who happens to attend New River Community and Technical College.
A few weeks ago, Julie Lockhart, owner and operator of Locked Hearts Wedding and Event Planning, posted a simple question on Facebook. She asked if anyone knew of a military couple planning a wedding in the coming months.
“As a way of paying back for their service, I wanted to provide my wedding coordinating service for free,” Lockhart said.
When her friends in the wedding planning business saw the post, they chipped in.
“I had a photographer offer her services. Then, a local floral designer offered her time, and a local church’s events coordinator donated linens to the couple that would need help,” she said.
The ladies who joined Lockhart’s cause included Lesley Weiss of Ray N Lilly’s, who is giving her labor toward floral decorations; Anna Lyle of Ms. Mimi Photography; and Karen Story, who offered up the church’s linens.
Within minutes of Lochart’s post, which was shared on Ms. Mimi Photography’s Facebook page, Gina spotted the information and asked to be considered for the big prize.
Gina and Dillon were chosen, giving them a big boost in preparing for their big day.
The young couple met on campus at New River Community and Technical College and hit it off quickly.
Gina remembers every milestone to the day. She knows they “started dating” on Nov. 12, 2011.
Soon, though, Dillon decided to leave school to serve his country.
“All while he was growing up, he always wanted to be a Marine,” she said.
He left for boot camp on April 2.
On Sept. 21, 2012, Dillon completed his unit’s training crucible and earned the Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem, as well as the proud title of a Marine.
Along with the basic training required of all Marine reservists, Dillon also trained to serve as a diesel mechanic, servicing the military machinery.
On Oct. 20, 2012, Dillon proposed to Gina, earning an eager “yes.”
“He’s sweet and caring. He always knows how to make me laugh when I’m down, puts a smile on my face every time,” Gina said this week, texting him for information, since his job with Asplundh had him temporarily stationed in the Northeast.
He was expecting to return to Mercer County late this week, but any time he’s gone, Gina holds tight to her favorite memories, including long walks to the lookout tower at Pipestem State Resort Park.
“We always go to that one trail and walk around to look at the deer,” she said.
Gina knows that there will be many expenses associated with her wedding, and she doesn’t even have a venue yet.
She and Dillon are considering Concord’s University Point as the location for their Marine wedding.
They are more thankful than they can say that Lockhart, Weiss, Lyle and Story had the idea to give them as much as they have.
Meanwhile, Lockhart said it was the least she could do.
“They say freedom isn’t free, and it is true. But we can help them out by donating our services for free,” she said.
— Contact Tammie Toler at email@example.com.
By TAMMIE TOLER
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