Soldiers on Leave Get Married on the Beach, Thanks to the OOA Network

From the News-Press, April 16, 2011

Operation Open Arms Wedding, Fort Myers Beach FLArmy captains don’t have much time to plan weddings.

Between caring for her 2-year-old and studying for exams to move up in rank, Capt. Ana Bosher, 36, didn’t have a lot of downtime to scour florists and flip through bridal magazines.

To ease the planning and financial burdens, the local nonprofit Operation Open Arms stepped in to give Bosher and her beau, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shon Thompson, 40, the beach wedding they’d always envisioned.

Red, pink and yellow rose petals dotted the sugary sand behind Pink Shell Resort & Spa on Fort Myers Beach on Saturday. Thompson wiped away tears as he stood under the altar in his navy blue dress uniform. Bosher walked the aisle in a flowing gown while Rascal Flatts’ “I Won’t Let Go” blared from speakers.


Pink Shell sales manager Dony Lubig watched the nuptials, which included donated services by Army veteran and DJ Jim Dalia and Chaplain Larry Ager, also a vet.

“We wanted to say thank you to our armed forces and all the sacrifices they make,” said Lubig, whose resort gave the newlyweds a room for the night.

If it hadn’t been for Operation Open Arms, the Fort Rucker, Ala. couple said they would’ve uttered their vows at the courthouse.

“We purposely held out because that’s not how we wanted to start our lives with two families coming together,” said Thompson, whose three teenagers served as bridesmaid and groomsmen.

Operation Open Arms paid about $1,000 for the affair, and rallied most vendors to volunteer their time and services, including the photographer, hair stylist and limo driver. The nonprofit provided a barbecue dinner reception at the VFW and is sending the couple on a one-day honeymoon to Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort and Marina on Captiva.

It marked the group’s 80th wedding since its inception in 2005. Capt. John “GiddyUp” Bunch, founder, said Operation Open Arms provides military supporters an easy way to show appreciation.

“It’s a way to give back and say thanks to our country and not have it hurt you financially,” he said.

On Monday, Operation Open Arms will receive the Seven Seals Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Department of Defense’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve

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