Congratulations to TODAY’s Modern Wedding Couple!

Melissa McMillin and Jeremy Gebhardt got married on Rockefeller Plaza on Sept. 30. (Photo from today.msnbc.msn.com)

They became high school sweethearts three years ago and today they got married live on the TODAY show!  Melissa McMillin, 21, and Jeremy Gebhardt, 22, celebrated their union at Rockefeller Plaza after having won TODAY’s Modern Love Wedding competition.

But here’s the cool part: the groom applied via Skype while deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan!  Gebhardt is a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force, stationed in Anchorage, Alaska.  Most of the past three years, however, have seen the couple parted by tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Once they learned they were the couple chosen – via Facebook voting – to receive an all-expenses-paid wedding, it was up to TODAY Show viewers to decide every last detail of the wedding, from the ring to the dress to the cake.  McMillan and Gebhardt didn’t mind at all.  “I think they’re all gorgeous,” Gebhardt told the TODAY show audience when viewing his bride’s ring choices from Afghanistan. “Any of these would be more than I could ask for.”

Their application videos say it all: ““We have waited three long years for each other and I’ve dreamt of the day that I can finally say, ‘Hi! I’m Melissa Gebhardt,’” McMillan said.  “If anyone deserves this, it should be [Melissa],” said Gebhardt, “…I can’t tell you how many tears she has cried or how many nights she has lost sleep worried about me or waiting for me to come home. I love her with all my heart.”

Join us in sending “congratulations” to this wonderful couple.  You can watch the entire ceremony below!

Video Interview with the Boondock Saints!

Sean Patrick Flannery (l) and Norman Reedus were two of the "Boondock Saints" who recently completed a USO tour. (Photo courtesy thecinemasource.com)

In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the release of “Boondock Saints,” the film’s stars Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus and Brian Mahoney teamed up for a USO tour, along with the film’s writer/director Troy Duffy and producer Chris Brinker.  We’ll have pictures for you soon, but in the meantime enjoy this short video interview with the cast!

Photos from the Field – September 2010

Periodically, we’re bringing you the best in USO photography from around the world.  Enjoy this latest installment of our photo essays!

(P.S. – if you know any of the photographers of images that don’t credit one, please let us know!)

A panoramic shot of the recently built center at USO Fort Riley. What a view! (Photo by Virginia Hagin of HaginPhotography)

A group of Marines serving in Afghanistan enjoy some comforts of home courtesy of their USO2Go kits. (Photo by their Command Chaplain)

Flyover in formation as part of Korean Air Force training for Armed Forces Day. (Photo courtesy of USO Korea Facebook page)

Morning rising above Sather Air Base, home of the USO Baghdad. (USO photo by Richard McCarty, via USO Baghdad Facebook page)

Retroactive Stop Loss Pay: The Marines Perspective

by Gary Gresham, Former Marine

Gresham encourages other Marines to claim the retroactive pay he did. (Photo courtesy of Gary Gresham)

After serving as a tactical network specialist for six and a half years in the Marines, I left the Corps in 2003. While speaking to a friend, another prior Marine, I found out about the Stop Loss Retroactive Payments that were being given to Armed Forces personnel. He told me that Marines who were held beyond their contract from 2001-2003 could apply for the payment. He gave me the link to the Stop Loss website so I could begin the process.

Once I had the link and was confident that I met the eligibility criteria, I was ready to go ahead and submit. I knew that if my friend had told me about it, it was legitimate. I was not hesitant and I didn’t have any doubts about the integrity of the Stop Loss payment Program.

First, I attempted to submit my claim online and found that I couldn’t proceed without my case ID. I called the Marine Corps Stop Loss Program office (1-877-242-2830) to see about getting my case ID to complete the submission. Instead, Staff Sgt. Lodovico took the time to walk me through the process. The best thing for my case was to fax the form and my DD214 over to the office. I had to battle with the fax machine, but finally my forms got through.

The next day, I received a call from the Stop Loss Program office to verify a few things on my form. My role in the process was complete. The office provided me with my case ID so that I could track it online and three weeks later my claim was completed and the money was deposited into my account.

For Marines who have not yet submitted a claim, I would suggest faxing it directly to the office in order to speed up the process and avoid the confusion online. For a six month period, I received more than $2,000. Going through the process of submitting a claim was definitely well worth the effort.

Gresham works for HP Enterprise Services, as a Navy Marine Corps Intranet Lead Site Engineer.  His comments are his own, and do not represent the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

This Week’s Snag Film: In Their Footsteps: Lewis and Clark

The In Their Footsteps Team From Left : Harlan Opdahl of Triple “O” Outfitters, Tim Steinouer Associate Producer, Greg Jones Editor, Bob Weis Writer-Producer, Cameron Roberts Director of Photography. (Photo courtesy of http://www.lewisandclarkrediscovery.com)

The Lewis and Clark story is one of America’s great adventures. What better way to celebrate their story than to retrace the most difficult part of their journey? Smithsonian Curator Emeritus Dr. Herman J. Viola and documentary filmmaker Bob Weis did just that–leading twenty modern Americans on a grueling and spectacular 10-day horseback trek over the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho. The result is a stunning experience back into the American Landscape as the Corps of Discovery first saw it.

For history buffs, this is an exciting retelling of an American adventure. For adventure travelers, it is an exciting journey into some of the country’s most fragile and beautiful sites.

Filmed in remote areas only reachable by horseback, and in exclusive locations including inside Monticello, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian.

In Their Footsteps: Lewis and Clark is this week’s FREE online documentary from Snag Films.  You can watch, snag, and share any time you like!