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01-14-03: Celina couple say 'I do' and 'goodbye'
Celina soldier must deploy

The Daily Standard
    Sam Schoch and Robyn Bennett of Celina have been planning their March 22 wedding since they got engaged in November. The bride's gown is bought, the flowers are picked out - and then on Saturday, th  wedding plans were all changed.
    Schoch, 27, serving with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, was notified Saturday that he would be deployed this week to serve his country. He's not allowed to say where he is going, and he doesn't know when he will return.
   The wedding plans quickly switched from Plan A (March wedding) to Plan B (immediate wedding).
    In a whirlwind of activity, the marriage license was purchased Monday morning and two hours later, the couple said their vows before the Rev. Stephen Merold at Celina's First Presbyterian Church.
    Wearing comfortable, casual clothes for the bittersweet exchange of vows, they saved the ivory wedding gown and tuxedo for when Schoch returns home. Two witnesses only accompanied the couple for the ceremony. They plan to have family and friends celebrate the wedding at a later date.
    "We're still having the big wedding celebration and reception when Sam gets home," Bennett said. "But we had already decided that if he has to go before March 22, we would just go ahead and get married before he leaves."
    Today, just 24 hours after being united as husband and wife, the newlyweds and Schoch's mother, Lil Keefer of Celina, were on the road to the Marine base in Battlecreek, Mich., to drop off Schoch. Only his wife will be allowed to return Thursday to say another goodbye.
    Where Schoch and his fellow Marines will be going and for how long is unknown.
    When Schoch returns home to Celina, the couple are planning a reaffirmation of the vows. His wife will wear the ivory wedding gown and family members and friends will fill the pews.
    Bennett, 24, of New Bern, N.C., met Schoch four years ago while he was serving with the Marine Corps at Cherry Point, N.C. They bought their wedding rings at Thanksgiving last year while visiting her family in North Carolina.
    "When Sam called me Saturday, I wasn't at home, I was out working on wedding stuff," Bennett said. "And when I talked to him later, I could tell by his voice that something was wrong and then he told me he has to leave. I just kept saying, Oyou're kidding, you're kidding,' until it finally sunk in."
    The couple told the news to Schoch's siblings and parents, Lil and Ed Keefer and Ken and Sandy Schoch, all of Celina, on Sunday morning. Bennett also called her parents, Steven Bennett and Vicky Eubanks of New Bern.
    "Mom just said to let her know if there is anything she can do, and Dad said he was so glad I was finally married," Bennett grinned.
    On Sunday morning, Schoch's mother called Rev. Merold to see if he was free to marry the couple Monday morning.
    "I said, Oof course I would,' even though this is a first for me. We'll do it again when Sam gets home, only it will be a reaffirmation of their vows," Merold said.
    During the wedding ceremony, Merold blessed the couple and said, "in the days, weeks and months you are apart, may the Holy Spirit keep you together."
    Family members honored the couple at a dinner Monday evening.
    "I knew, as soon as I saw them Sunday morning that Sam was going," Lil Keefer said. "His younger sister, Michelle, 13, is taking it really hard and Sam was to stop in to see her at school today before we leave for Battlecreek."
    Schoch's older sister, Karen, now residing in Tennessee, took a few days off work to come home to Celina to spend time with her brother.
    Ken and Sandy Schoch and their son, Dylan, also spent time with Sam before he left.
    "I'm not really surprised he has to go. I'm so very proud," Ken Schoch said of his son.
    Schoch, a 1994 graduate of Celina High School, signed up for the Marine Corps soon after graduation and joined the Marine Corps Reserve in 1999, after four years of active duty. He did not tell his mother he had joined, he said, breaking the news to her only when he was preparing to leave for basic training.
    His Marine Corps Military Operation Specialty is water purification priority, he said.
    "Ever since 9-11, we've been preparing to be deployed. But now it's happening," Schoch said. "I feel confident of everyone and our ability. I believe we will perform well under pressure. This is what we train for."
    "I told him to keep his head down, don't be a hero and watch your back," his mother, fearful and proud, said. "I am giving them (the military) my son. Take care of my only son."


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