CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- It was a small ceremony. The bride wore white, the groom wore tan. It was July 26, 30 minutes until midnight at Camp Fallujah, Iraq; 30 minutes past noon at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
1st Sgt. James J. Schickel and his best man, Lt. Col. Dana D. Clark, stood side-by-side in the I Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general's video teleconference room as friends and well-wishers filed in alongside the long, black conference table and technicians at both ends adjusted the cameras.
"Now there's a four-second delay - so don't worry if you don't hear me say 'I do,'" the first sergeant joked while the cameras were being set up.
And on cue, four seconds later, laughter from the bride's party could be heard over the speaker.
It wasn't planned like this. Schickel had met Sandra in April of 2003 at a sandwich shop in Downey, Calif.
"She was sitting there waiting for her to-go order, and we started talking," he said.
She worked for the Los Angeles county department of public libraries; he worked for the Los Angeles police department. They hit it off.
After Schickel was mobilized as the I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group first sergeant, the two planned to be married in August before he deployed in September. But in June, he was told that plans had changed, and a week later he left for Iraq.
"We didn't want to wait until I got back," said Schickel. "I wanted to make sure if something happened to me, she was taken care of."
The ceremony, conducted by the bride's uncle, Hugo Chavez, was brief. Schickel watched his bride, Sandra, on a widescreen LCD monitor, with his own image sitting in the bottom right corner, looking up at her. After exchanging vows, the couple put on wedding rings they had already exchanged - after a short confusion over how it was going to work.
"Did you get my e-mail?" Sandra, asked, sending chuckles through both conference rooms.
Then Chavez pronounced them man and wife, and Sgt. Richard J. Chavez, a Marine who had worked for Schickel at the I Marine Expeditionary Force Augmentation Command Element, handed the bride a Hershey's Kiss, prompting Tatyana, Schickel's new eight-year-old stepdaughter, to exclaim, "Candy!"
Afterwards Clark, the I MHG executive officer, made a toast to the couple's success. Most of the Marines who attended held empty Dixie cups; a few had a swallow of O'Doul's to mark the occasion.
After the toast, the guests filed out of the conference room to give the new couple a chance to talk.
"Honey, they're going to give us the room for 30 minutes so we can have our honeymoon," Schickel joked.
When Schickel returns from Iraq, he and his wife already know where they want to go for their real honeymoon - Hawaii.