By sheer coincidence, Alexandrea Denis wore a white wedding gown the night she met Tye Reedy. • She was a debutante waltzing in a swirl of chiffon. • He was a West Point cadet, recruited to escort the young women making their debuts to the Krewe of Venus at Thanksgiving 2004. • "Soon as she smiled at me, I knew,'' Reedy said, as certain then as now. • Anyone who knows Capt. Reedy knows he's no quitter. He's the Pasco High guy who dislocated his left shoulder in the state wrestling championship finals. He rolled it back in and won the title with one good arm. • "I don't want a lot of things, but when I know what I want, I get it," he said. • The next time she danced in a white wedding gown, Alexandrea was his wife.
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At the debutante ball, Reedy's first move was to "borrow" the seating chart and re-assign himself to Denis' table. She sat between him and her boyfriend, not at all what Reedy had pictured. So he charmed her mother, Mary Giles, who encouraged him and Denis to exchange e-mail addresses.
Back at the military academy, a thank-you message from Denis for being her escort launched their friendship. The two made plans for lunch and a movie when he came home for the holidays.
"Just as friends,'' Denis said, then a telecommunications major at the University of South Florida. Lunch lasted hours, and they never made it to the movies. The next day, Reedy bought a ticket to Busch Gardens where Denis was performing for the first time in a children's show.
"I watched all six shows,'' he said, laughing at what people must have thought about that grown-up who spent the day in the Land of the Dragons.
Their budding relationship got him "through the gloom periods" at West Point, he said, and to graduation in May 2005. Denis wore a big pink hat so he could find her in the stands.
"I never thought I'd be thinking about marriage at 21," said Denis. "My goal was to work as much as I could to become a journalist. Then I spent every spare second traveling so we could see each other," said the four-time Gaither High class president.
Reedy continued ranger school in Fort Benning, Ga., and other Army training. Denis interned at WFTS-Ch. 28, writing and working on the assignment desk. When he deployed to Iraq in November 2006, leading an airborne reconnaissance scout platoon out of the 82nd Airborne, she added checking the military news to her job.
Long nights in the Diyala River Valley, one of the most violent areas in Iraq, gave Reedy time to dream up a proposal. A bit of a prankster, the son of Pasco High principal Patrick Reedy once stole the No. 1 keys off every computer in the school, in honor of the class of 2001.
He wrote to Denis' co-workers to set up the ploy during his mid-tour leave in June 2007. Could they contact him for a story about the effects of deployment on couples? Could he pop the question as he answered their questions?
The editors smelled a good story, even sending a camera crew to a jewelry store for footage of him picking out a ring. And when unsuspecting Denis brought him to the studio, everyone pretended to be meeting Reedy for the first time.
A reporter's code words — "I have one final question" — were Reedy's cue to get down on one knee. As the camera rolled, he asked Denis to marry him.
Their families, hidden in the green room, cheered. The story aired several times over the Fourth of July.
Two weeks later, Reedy returned to Baghdad to complete his 15-month tour. Denis graduated magna cum laude from USF in December 2007. Since March 2008, she has been a reporter at an NBC affiliate in Panama City.
Wedding planning continued long distance as Reedy was deployed to Iraq for the second time last December. A DVD he sent of himself in his barracks was a bridal shower hit.
Reedy, 26, and Denis, 23, had not seen each other for six months when they wed June 20 at Christ the King Catholic Church in South Tampa. Officiating was Father Ed Lamp, the chaplain at James A. Haley VA Medical Center where Denis and her mother attend Mass. Coincidentally, he had also baptized Reedy as an infant in Dade City.
The debutante and cadet danced to Etta James' At Last during the reception at the Academy of the Holy Names, and left on a Caribbean cruise the next day.
Reedy returns to Iraq on July 7 and expects to finish his tour in November. Capt. and Mrs. Reedy will make their first home together in Fort Knox, Ky., where he will attend the Maneuver Captains Career Course.
The newlyweds will treasure every day, as the groom is scheduled to leave for Afghanistan a few months later for his third year-long deployment in five years.
Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.