06-03-04 It’s the bride going off to war this time
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06-03-04 It’s the bride going off to war this time

By Betty Lawrence

Most people have heard of a war bride but how about a male war bride(groom)?
     That’s what Ryan Fullenkamp considers himself.
     Today, the St. Henry High School graduate will marry Amy Bertke, a U.S. Army training officer who will be deploying to Iraq approximately a week after they say “I Do” at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in St. Marys.
     “Amy got me the movie, “I Was a Male War Bride,” for Christmas, and I can kind of relate to that since she’s going to Iraq. I’ve hooked up with some other guys in the same situation and that will help,” Fullenkamp said.
     The role reversal couple met while in high school but started dating seriously two years ago.
      “We dated about two years and had planned to get married anyway, but moved the wedding date up when we found out she would be leaving for Iraq,” Fullenkamp said.
     “We’ve known the situation from the start, but if we had waited until I return home to get married, it could have been as long as two years,” Bertke added.
     Bertke, 23, the daughter of Virgil and Jane Bertke, of St. Marys, entered the U.S. Army National Guard in Dec., 1998, before graduating from Memorial High School in 1999.
     She earned a degree in history from Xavier University and last year was commissioned as a lieutenant. Iraq marks the first time she has been activated and just two days ago she graduated from Officer Basic Training in Missouri.
     “So things have been pretty hectic. I got my wedding dress over the holidays last year and everything, including reserving the church and hall, has been falling into place. This wedding was meant to happen,” Bertke said.
     To prepare for her overseas duty, she has undergone readiness courses and said she mostly will be working as an intelligence officer in Iraq.
     “I can’t say where I’ll be. My job is to keep an eye on the enemy, what they’re doing. I also check out the weather and terrain and take all the information I have gathered back to our unit,” she explained.
     One of the biggest obstacles she expects to face is being a female in Iraq.
     “The Iraqi people look at women differently. Here, I am accepted as an officer and over there, they may not accept my position,” she said.
     She will spend a week at Camp Atterbury in Indiana before shipping out.
     Although it will be hard to leave her hew husband and family members when the time comes, Bertke stressed she is proud to serve her country and the safety of the soldiers in her codege is her foremost concern while in Iraq.
     “Honestly, I worry about my soldiers, about something happening to someone I am taking care of,” she said.
     Fullenkamp says he too is proud of his G.I. Jane.
     “She was in the military when I when I started going with her and it has always been a part of the package. We’re all very proud of her, but I can’t help about think it’s pretty dangerous there,” he said.
     Fullenkamp, 24, is the son of Mark and Kathy Fullenkamp, St. Henry. He earned a degree in broadcasting from the International College of Broadcasting in Dayton and currently attends Sinclair Community College in Dayton where he is majoring in music education.
     He also works as a percussion instructor at Kenton Ridge High School and will continue his education while Amy is in Iraq.
     The young bride will be gone approximately 12-18 months and the couple say letters from home and occasional e-mails and phone calls will help ease separation anxieties. He also has set up a Web site, as follows: www.amysandbox.com.


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