AURORA, Ill. (CBS) — Anthony Huebner of Aurora and fiancé Stephanie Thompson are to be married on Saturday, but their rehearsal dinner Friday night was anything but ordinary.
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Huebner and Thompson are both Army lieutenants – deployed less than two months ago in Afghanistan – and home on a two-week pass. So, when they saw television cameras lurking in one corner of Luigi’s Pizza in Aurora, they suspected something might be up.
More than 30 volunteers from “Operation Welcome You Home,” led by a bagpiper and hoisting a bevy of American flags, paraded into the rehearsal dinner, sang “God Bless America” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and presented both of them – and their active-duty friends – with presents and reindeer antlers.
“It’s awesome to see everybody who supports not only us but the entire military,” Thompson said.
Thompson and Huebner can be forgiven if they appear a bit lost at their own wedding. Thompson said they didn’t plan it.
“That was our moms,” Thompson said. “His mom and my mom? They did everything – probably 95 percent of it.”
Huebner said there have been many times over the past year that he had no computer or Internet access, particularly while stationed in Afghanistan.
“But I didn’t have to worry about anything. They were taking care of everything back home,” he said.
His high school friends from Marmion Military Academy, her high school friends from California and their friends from the military and Marquette University, where they met, have come from as far away as Alaska for the wedding, so the happy couple say their honeymoon will be spent someplace they haven’t been recently – home.
When their furlough is over they will report for an assignment in Europe, but they say if duty calls them back to combat, they’ll be ready.
“Operation Welcome You Home” regularly honors returning military personnel, but organizer Donna Morsovillo said Friday night’s celebration was special.
“Number one, we have two soldiers who just came back after serving in Afghanistan for a year and they’re getting married,” she said. “How exciting is that?”
Morsovillo said getting home in itself was a present.
“Their mothers can sleep now,” she said.