Baby, wedding welcome soldier

After what was likely the most eventful 48 hours of his life, Staff Sgt. Paul Lavigne was understand
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After what was likely the most eventful 48 hours of his life, Staff Sgt. Paul Lavigne was understandably a little shaky.

Arriving back from Iraq on leave Wednesday, he and his fiancée, Alyssa Johnson, became parents Thursday.

Friday morning, Alyssa straightened the boutonniere on Paul’s shirt, his knees shaking, as the Clifton Park couple prepared to exchange wedding rings.

“She was just trying to make sure I looked good for the pictures,” the proud Army medic said after a small ceremony. “Sometimes I get a little shaky when I get teared up. I try to hold back the tears and my knees start shaking instead.”

The brief ceremony was held at Bellevue Woman’s Care Center in Niskayuna, a facility better known for babies than weddings.

But for a few moments Friday morning, the center could add “and Wedding Chapel” to its name.

Paul Lavigne, 25, is originally from Saratoga County; Alyssa, 27, is from Toledo, Ohio. They met in December 2007 while in Germany; he was in the Army, she was with the Army Air Force Exchange Service, part of the Department of Defense that provides merchandise and services to soldiers. She recently moved to Clifton Park to stay with Paul’s mother while she was expecting.

It was bound to be a hectic two weeks for the couple. Paul planned his leave around the birth date. They had also planned to get married. A ceremony with a justice of the peace was scheduled for Thursday.

When Aidan made his unexpected early arrival at 6 pounds, 12 ounces, officials with Bellevue worked to ensure the couple got their ceremony, the first anyone could remember held at the facility.

“We thought, why not offer to bring the wedding to them?” hospital spokeswoman Donna Evans said. “They have so little time together, we wanted to do whatever we could to help them make the best use of that time.”

And so the ceremony was arranged. Pressed into service as the wedding chapel was a first-floor room in the hospital’s mansion building.

The couple stood in front of a fireplace, the mantel decorated for the occasion with two colorful flower pots.

The groom wore a white shirt with yellow and blue tie, the bride a yellow sundress with white mesh pullover, the baby a striped blue sweater and blue stocking cap.

Officiating was Ellis Hospital Director of Pastoral Care Paula Gravelle.

“This is an exciting, wonderful day,” Gravelle said at the outset. “Yesterday, we had the great joy of the birth of Aidan. Today is the extra joy of the marriage of Paul and Alyssa.”

Paul and Alyssa took each other as friends, lovers and spouses, “in laughter and tears … in conflict and in tranquility.”

Their rings, they told each other, were symbols that will bind their lives together forever.

“May this day shine eternally in your lives,” Gravelle said. “It is with great joy that I pronounce you husband and wife. Please seal your covenant with a kiss.”

They did just that, with Paul giving a few more for good measure.

Attending the ceremony were a handful of family, friends and nurses.

Aidan, born just 25 hours before, rode out the ceremony in the arms of nursery nurse Christine McCann, apparently fully content in believing everything that had just happened.

Paul’s mother Tamara Lavigne was still having trouble, calling the timing of everything miraculous.

“The baby knew that daddy was here and it was time,” she said. “This is just outrageous.”

But the joy will be short-lived. Paul goes back in two weeks for the expected three months remaining on his deployment.

His job in Iraq is in trauma care, helping screen injured soldiers, often on the front lines. He also often helps treat local Iraqis.

The Internet has helped the couple keep in constant contact since his initial August deployment. Thanksgiving and Christmas were broadcast over a webcam, as was Alyssa’s baby shower.

“I don’t want him to go back,” the new wife and mother said. “It’s scary. I’m always worried about him. But we talk over the Internet pretty much every day.”

They intend to make the most of the next two weeks.

“It’s been a lot all at once,” Paul Lavigne said. “But it’s almost perfect that it happened as quickly as it did. Now we can take the rest of the time to enjoy it.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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