BOURNE, Mass. – “I ask those who would act as witnesses for this holy ceremony … to please come forward,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Laurence Bazer, as he stood inside the nearly deserted post chapel on Camp Edwards, here, Jan. 16, 2011.
Bazer was there to conduct a simple ceremony; in fact three of the four other people in the chapel had participated in a similar ceremony … nearly 26 years earlier.
“Those of our community, who wish to renew their vows to each other before the Almighty, please come forward into this House of the Lord, “said Bazer, the 26th “Yankee” Brigade’s chaplain.
Arm-in-arm, Massachusetts Army National Guardsman Jonathan Picard and his wife Melissa Marie Picard walked towards Bazer, their footsteps echoing off the rows of well worn pews, to renew their wedding vows.
On June 7, 1985, Picard, then an enlisted electronics technician in the Navy married his wife Melissa in a traditional Roman Catholic wedding in Rhode Island in front of 200 friends and family members.
“That’s when I sprung the news that we were going overseas,” said Picard with a chuckle.
“On our wedding day, he told my mother and father he was taking me to Naples, Italy for three years,” added Melissa.
When his contract with the Navy was over, Picard left the service. He and his wife became teachers. She teaches first grade in Milford, while he teaches electronics at a vocational school in Fall River. The couple has one child, a son, David.
A few years ago Picard felt the call to serve and joined the National Guard, rising to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2.
As for renewing their wedding vows …
“It definitely has to do with him going away,” said Melissa
Picard, Bazer and the rest of the 26th will soon deploy overseas in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“This will be the longest tour away from each other,” said Melissa.
And so, with his brigade chaplain presiding and no one else but Picard’s younger brother Craig and his wife Kate, who were the witnesses, Picard and Melissa held hands as they renewed their vows.
“We wanted to focus on each other,” said Melissa.
The couple’s son David couldn’t attend the ceremony; he is a first lieutenant in the Army and is currently deployed to Afghanistan. Picard hopes to be able to see his son during the deployment.
“He’s doing good over there … when we hear from him,” said Picard.
One of the Chief’s goals for the deployment is to “make it better” for the Soldiers he is serving with. He does however; feel guilty about the added burden he is placing on his wife.
“When we go over there, all we have to do is focus on our jobs, that’s all we have to do,” said Picard. “Whereas they have to focus on worrying about us and taking care of the household and doing all the things that we would normally do.”
After 25 plus years, Melissa understands.
“This is in John’s blood … David grew up with it, so it’s part of who we are as a family,” said Melissa, “So I hold my chin up high with pride and honor as my two men in my life go off to this country and I will support them any way I can.”