When Seaman Apprentice Dylan Ruffer told his fiancee he wanted to marry her the moment he set eyes on her after a nine-month deployment, she decided to make it happen.
Madison Meinhardt, 19, sent an email to Reno-Tahoe International Airport, asking if it might be possible to get married in the terminal.
“I’ve been here for 10 years, and I have brought home troops and fallen soldiers,” airport spokesman Brian Kulpin told Navy Times, “so this is an absolute honor, to do a wedding for somebody returning from being on a ship in the Mediterranean off the coast of Syria.”
Ruffer, also 19, returned Monday from his first deployment, aboard the destroyer Gravely. The ship spent the better part of this year working with allied navies in the Mediterranean and maintaining a presence as the U.S. prepared for a potential strike on Syria.
Once docked at Norfolk, Va., Ruffer hopped a plane for Reno, two hours from his and Meinhardt’s hometown of Chester, Calif. Sporting dress blues and a “Dixie cup” cover, he descended the escalator at the arrivals area and walked right up to the altar to marry his high school sweetheart just after midnight.
“Seeing her for the first time, it was amazing,” Ruffer, who only has six days’ leave, told reporters.
A reception complete with food, drinks, cake, DJ and hundreds of guests followed in the revamped baggage claim area.
“We were expecting a little wedding in the corner,” Meinhardt told The Associated Press. “This is definitely more than we could have ever asked for.”
Kulpin said his office got the word out to the community, who stepped up to provide all of the wedding amenities free of charge.
The El Dorado Hotel and Casino donated the cake, limo service and a honeymoon suite. The Pepper Mill Casino donated salon services.
Flowers and food were also taken care of, and KRNV, the local NBC affiliated, shot and edited the ceremony and reception for their wedding video.
“It’s a great love story,” Kulpin said before the ceremony. “Airports are all about bringing people together, and there’s no better example of that that’s going to take place here tonight.”