Hurricane Irene threatens a wedding, and Bill Young orders up a chopper
At 7:20 this morning, Elisebet Freeburg, 27, felt her world unwind.
"I have some bad news. I’m not going to be able to make it," her fiance said.
To their wedding Saturday.
He was stuck on the U.S.S. Donald Cook, which was ordered out to sea off the coast of Norfolk, Va., because of Hurricane Irene. Freeburg burst into tears. Her family started calling guests to break the news. Hotels reservations were canceled. More bawling.
Then her brother suggested calling U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who represents Pinellas County, where Freeburg's parents live. "He seemed like he was pro-military," Freeburg said.
About 4:35 p.m. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremiah "Jay" Lalisan stepped out of a helicopter and onto land. He still hoping to make his plane to Buffalo, N.Y., for the wedding.
"HELO's inbound... I'm coming!!" the 29-year-old said in an e-mail to his future wife. "Going home...on a HELO!! Oh yeah!" he wrote to friends on Facebook.
"I’m just really grateful," Freeburg, who is an English teacher Keystone Heights High in Clay County and an active Army reservist, said in an interview. "We’re definitely going to tell our grandchildren about it."
The wedding was going to be the first time her four children were together in 9 years, and the first time her own siblings would be together in 15.
Turns out two weddings were salvaged. A female sailor is also getting hitched this weekend but was stuck on the ship, too.
Young mentioned the tale to a reporter by way of an apology. He was late in returning an interview request on a different matter.
He has lots of stories like this one. Over the years he and his wife Beverly have taken up causes of soldiers and sailors, using his clout as a defense appropriator to get things done, fix problems.
Earlier the Youngs took up the cause of a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant whose legs had been blown off by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The young man had been stationed in Okinawa before going to Afghanistan, and he was still being charged for his living quarters there as well as for temporary housing in Maryland.
"We raised a little bit of a fuss," Young told the Times in July.
The overcharges were reversed. Mrs. Young collected some clothes her granddaughters had outgrown and gave them to the sergeant's children.
"Recognizing the sacrifices they are making," Young said, "it's very inspirational to see these kind of young Americans. It motivates me."
As for the soon-to-be-married couple, he said, "I wish them the very best."
Elisebet in a follow-up e-mail wrote: "We were both very excited, obviously! I also thought of something else you may want to know. While I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, I flew in helicopters fairly often on different missions. Jay has been a little envious of the experience and talks about wanting to fly in a helicopter too. During our honeymoon in Orlando, I had planned to take him on a helicopter ride over the city. I guess I won't now!"