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Manas Airman marries bride 16,000 miles away

MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyz Republic -- The marvels of modern technology bridged the long-distance divide for an Airman here and his sweetheart halfway around the world, bringing their relationship to a new level as husband and wife.

A morale center phone call and an Internet webcam allowed Staff Sgt. Albert Jensen to marry his long-time sweetheart, Charlene Kehaualani Meyer, through a proxy marriage ceremony Aug. 8. A proxy marriage was Sergeant Jensen's only option to marry while deployed because it allowed someone to stand in for him during the Hawaiian ceremony, 16,000 miles away from Manas.

After some research, the couple discovered that the state of Montana authorizes marriage by double-proxy as long as one member is either a Montana resident or a member of the United States armed forces. Most other states that allow proxy marriages require at least one member of the couple to be present at the wedding.

"I discovered that a double-proxy ceremony was the best way for us to have the event I had wished for and still allow it to be special while we're apart," said Sergeant Jensen.

An added bonus to doing the proxy wedding was that the couple was able to have their former base chaplain and friend conduct the ceremony from Montana for a bride in Hawaii and a groom in the Kyrgyz Republic.

So in the early morning hours of Aug. 8, Sergeant Jensen answered that life-altering question with an "I do."

"When Sergeant Jensen asked me to be his best woman, I couldn't help but to giggle," said Staff Sgt. Renee Pecpec, 376th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron technician. "I was kind of lost in translation, until he said that he was getting married by proxy. I told him of course I'd be his best woman!"

Albert and "Char," as he affectionately calls Charlene, have been dating for more than six years. The couple met earlier in 1970 at Hawaii's North Shore when Sergeant Jensen was in the Army. Getting married 16,000 miles apart is not easy, but Sergeant Jensen described it as if it did not matter how far apart they were because it was "time to forge ahead with the relationship."

"On the evening of the marriage, we sipped sparkling grape juice and pretended it was sweet wine," said Sergeant Pecpec. "When Sergeant Jensen, Char and the chaplain were on the phone, he had the biggest smile I had ever seen. When I heard the words, 'I do,' I was really touched and happy for him."

"To some it may seem like a proxy marriage is a little foreign or strange, but to us it just made sense," said Sergeant Jensen. "We will have a royal Hawaiian wedding one day in the future."

In the end, the wedding spanned 16 time zones between Manas, Montana and Hawaii, and the longtime companions were united in an unusual, but monumental ceremony that truly showcased the core value of service before self.