Down the aisle, then back to Iraq

Nuptials: Army Spc. Adrian Dupree and Mieasha Pompey make the most of his furlough with a wedding planned in 10 days.

October 04, 2003|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Resplendent in a black tuxedo instead of the desert camouflage he wears in Iraq, Army Spc. Adrian Dupree married Mieasha Pompey before 120 guests last night, the eighth day of his two-week vacation from war.

As the bride shook with emotion, the Rev. St. George Crosse performed the ceremony, ending with a prayer as the young couple held each other in a long embrace. Two national television networks and a newspaper photographer recorded the scene.

"Go back [to Iraq] knowing that friends and others will be looking out for you, and God will be looking out for you. I talked to Adrian, and he said, `It's my duty to be there,' " Crosse told the crowd at McKenzie's Restaurant, near the Southwest Baltimore neighborhood of Yale Heights, where the couple grew up.

Dupree, a reservist in the 352nd Civil Affairs Command based in Riverdale in Prince George's County, was on the first planeload of troops sent home from Iraq for two weeks of rest and relaxation in the midst of their year of service. Friday, he's due to leave for six more months in Baghdad, processing other soldiers' orders.

Although young brides often take a year or more to plan a wedding, Pompey said things fell into place for her in one whirlwind week. Tables were covered by white-and-lavender tablecloths, the chairs in white silk slipcovers. A three-tiered white cake awaited cutting with silver knives.

Despite the circumstances, the mood was not always serious. After Crosse asked if anyone objected to the wedding and no one did, the groom turned to say "Thank you" to titters.

And when it was time for the exchange of rings, Adrian's brother, Allen Dupree Jr., pulled one from his pocket and the other from his right sock, drawing a chorus of "uh-uh's!" and laughter from the audience.

The days up to the wedding were filled with family visits, errands and wedding preparations, the couple said.

"I think the most sleep I got was midnight to 6:30 a.m.," Dupree said, even after the long flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport from the embarkation point in Kuwait, with a stop in Frankfurt, Germany. "I've been pretty involved," he said, of visiting the restaurant, getting a tuxedo and performing other pre-wedding chores. The couple was to spend last night in a downtown hotel and head to Atlantic City for one night.

The whole adventure began 10 days ago, when Dupree called from Iraq to say he'd be home in two days.

They decided then to get married during Dupree's visit, Pompey said.

"They changed his date when he was supposed to come back. First it was December, then it was March. Everything just kept changing and changing," she said.

Ellen Gibson-Adler, Pompey's boss at the Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention in Towson, gave her time off on short notice -- and helped organize a shower for the bride. "They made me cry," Pompey said of her friends from work.

"Mieasha is such a terrific person and employee," Gibson-Adler said.

"We see this as one of the world's greatest love stories. It's like World War II," she said, recalling her own parents' hurried wartime marriage. "We're just tickled. Our wish for her is that he will be home to stay."

Nicole Nickelson, a co-worker who does wedding planning on the side, jumped in too. Another friend found a volunteer to take the photos, and Pompey ran into the minister's wife at a neighborhood store, which led to the pastor of Overcomers Tabernacle on Beechfield Avenue agreeing to officiate.

The family did its own flower arrangements, and Dupree, who is more used to processing soldiers' orders, found himself preparing table favors.

That left the wedding dress.

Pompey said she'd had her eye on a dress, thinking a wedding could come next summer. But that dress would take 22 weeks to arrive.

A visit to Jane Kahn and Kirti Chopra at the Columbia Bridal Boutique solved the problem, Pompey said.

The dress had been ordered for a wedding eight months off. Pompey got it in two days, and another will be made to replace it.

"I have never seen people just drop everything the way she has, and with laser-like concentration make this happen," Gibson-Adler said.

Office co-workers even scrambled to arrange for a congratulatory banner to be towed behind a 1941 biplane piloted by Charles Gnau, whose sister works with Pompey.

Pompey said her relationship with Dupree goes way back.

"We've known each other for years," Pompey said, recalling their meeting at age 14 through Dupree's older brother, who attended Southwestern High with her, while Dupree went to Carver Vocational-Technical High School.

"We dated in high school. We were friends hanging out, but we were 14 and we broke up. We always remained friends," Pompey said, recalling how she has gone to Dupree's mother's house for Sunday dinner for 10 years.

During their time apart, Pompey's son, Jordan, now 4, was born. Dupree and Pompey became a couple, and a family, for good in June 2002, she said, when Dupree came back from Army basic training. "He [Adrian] is the only father Jordan has known," Pompey said.

Dupree said the week was a bit of a blur, and he hasn't had time to process things yet.

One thing he hasn't focused on, he said, is going back to Iraq.

"I'm taking it one hour at a time," he said.

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