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Back home from Iraq, a Marine couple exchange vows
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff

Many couples mark their courtship by the usual milestones: first date, first kiss, engagement, marriage.

For Marines Karinna Quizado and Timothy Muckey, the milestones were those of wartime: They met in 2002, as the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. They got engaged after their first deployment to Iraq and had a small church wedding just days before their second deployment last summer so they could serve together.



And yesterday, just weeks after returning from Iraq, Staff Sgt. Quizado and Sgt. Muckey of the 2nd Battalion Intelligence Unit, II Marines Expeditionary Force, celebrated their homecoming and marriage with family and friends they hadn't seen in nearly a year.

"This is my dream wedding, my big, family wedding," said the teary-eyed bride, 29, resplendent in a dazzling white gown as she and her husband posed for pictures at the Bridgewater Manor, where the ceremony took place.

"Karinna and Tim have come home. Our hearts go out to them as they savor this moment of beauty and happiness they have anticipated these many months," wedding celebrant Wilma Quantrille said as the ceremony began. "They are our heroes. We are so grateful to God that they are home safe and well."

Until recently, a wedding of two service members would be unusual. But with more women joining the armed forces, the number of "dual military marriages, or "mil-to-mils," is growing.

As of 2003, about 13 percent of all active-duty members of the armed services were in dual-military marriages. Those figures are much higher among women: a Department of Defense survey found more than half of female married Marines were in a dual-military marriage.

Like many couples these days, it's a matter of meeting on the job. Tim, of Omaha, Neb., and Karinna, a 1994 graduate of Piscataway High School, met at a training course in Texas. Karinna needed help installing a shower caddy, and Tim obliged. They started dating when both were posted to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina soon afterward.

"It's the same type of advantage as any couple sharing similar careers. The military lifestyle is definitely unique and they can understand the hardships and challenges the spouse faces and understand their accomplishments as well," said Michelle Joyner, a spokeswoman for the National Military Family Association, a nonprofit group that advocates for quality-of-life issues for military families.

That's especially true of deployment. As tough as it is to worry when a partner faces danger, it's easier than explaining the experiences to someone who doesn't know what it's like, they agreed.

"When we go over there, it's normal to us, just like any other couple that would move to a different area together and establish ourselves," Tim, 31, said of serving in Iraq. "In some ways, that's just our lifestyle, there's nowhere we'd rather be than together fighting the war in Iraq." So it's normal for them to talk about Tim's experience on Marine foot patrols, fighting during the assault to retake Fallujah in late 2004. Or for Karinna to relate how her camp was hit by rocket fire 50 paces from her tent.

"It's a chance and an opportunity for us to see each other, so in a way it's easier than people married to someone who isn't a Marine," Karinna said. And she means seeing each other literally: They have no contact other than a professional relationship in Iraq, she said. LOVE GREW SLOWLY The qualities they admire in each other also are those valued by the military. One is loyalty. The two didn't care for each other much when they first met, they said. "I'm a very independent woman, an only child raised by my father. I didn't think I needed a man," Karinna said. "He invited me out three times, and I stood him up. Then I invited him out, and he stood me up. But he stuck around even when I was acting so heinously to him. I kept asking, 'Who's this guy who's sticking around?'" Although Tim thought Karinna was stubborn at first, he admires her independence. "She's disciplined, very professional, very focused. If she wants to get something done, she's going to get it done," Tim said.

That included planning a wedding in a war zone. While other brides schedule calls to wedding planners, caterers and florists during their work day, Karinna would send e-mails from Ramadi to her planner, Rhonda Bassat-Rivera, who owns Bridal Ideas in West Orange.

In a two-day whirlwind, the couple picked the site, close to her father, Carlos Quizado, in Piscataway, flowers and photographer. They found Quantrille, a retired Methodist clergywoman, through Celebrants USA in Montclair, which provides professionals to officiate at different kinds of ceremonies.

A JERSEY FLAVOR "It's a very New Jersey wedding," Bassat-Rivera said, noting the cocktail hour, sit-down dinner, and large wedding party of 16 bridesmaids and ushers, two flower girls and a ring bearer.

A JERSEY FLAVOR "It's a very New Jersey wedding," Bassat-Rivera said, noting the cocktail hour, sit-down dinner, and large wedding party of 16 bridesmaids and ushers, two flower girls and a ring bearer.

It was a very New Jersey wedding in another way, a combination of all kinds of people. The red-headed, freckled Muckey family from Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa, were being joined to the dark-haired, olive-skinned Quizados of Piscataway by way of Colombia. The wedding program was in English and Spanish. Friends, many former Marines, came from California, Florida and Georgia, as well as locally.

Despite their differences, the newlyweds have a lot in common, their families said. "They're a lot alike, very outgoing personalities, they love to talk," said Tim's sister, Jennifer Walsh, of Council Bluffs, Iowa. "They are truly about giving for each other," said brother Rick Muckey of Lawrence, Kan. They plan to raise a family as career Marines and are dedicated to the service. "They firmly believe in the cause they are fighting for. They are serving willingly," said Kathleen Muckey of Omaha, Tim's mother. That makes it easier to handle when months go by without any contact except an e-mail saying 'Hi, we're still alive.' After a honeymoon to Bogota, Colombia, to visit Karinna's grandmother and aunts, they'll go back to North Carolina, and, perhaps, to Iraq yet again. "I can't say when. But we are going back," Tim said.

But yesterday was a time for dancing, toasting and celebrating being home among loved ones. Tim choked up a bit trying to explain how much their big day meant to them. "We missed you while we were gone, we're glad we're back," he told the 104 guests, raising his champagne flute. "And we're ready to party."

Peggy O'Crowley covers family issues. She may be reached at or at (973) 392-5810.

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