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Owatonna bride marries Marine over Internet

By Clare Kennedy

Owatonna People’s Press

OWATONNA, Minn. — On the morning of her wedding day, Breana Michel stood next to her pastor Rev. Jay Grave. The groom was nowhere to be found in the small house on 15th Street Southeast.

In fact, he was 6,384 miles away.

Michel’s groom is David Luedtke, a Marine stationed in Iraq. The two were about to say their vows last month through a Web cam in her father’s living room.

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As daunting as the distance may seem, the two have been through far more than mere physical separation. It’s been a long and rocky road to the altar.

The two met in a friend’s backyard when they were both still in their teens. Michel remembers that day with startling clarity.

"It was a Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2001," Michel said.

She saw Luedtke’s truck drive up, a beaten green 1976 Dodge Ram. At that moment, she said, her heart dropped into her stomach.

Apparently, it was mutual.

"They hit it off right away," recalled David’s brother Drew. "They were inseparable."

But as strong as their young love seemed, it foundered and the two went through a painful series of breakups and reunions. In 2004, the two broke up for what seemed to be the final time.

Fast forward four years. Michel was working as an apartment manager and a part-time police officer in the Twin Cities. Her son Quentin was just a year old and she had recently left her husband.

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Though time had passed, the two had never forgotten each other.

"Every time I’ve envisioned my future it was always with David," Michel said. "I could never picture my future with anyone else."

In summer 2008, Michel and Luedtke reconnected through Facebook. Luedtke had enlisted in the Marine Corps in Christmas of 2007.

"When I saw that I knew they were either never going to talk again or they were going to get married," Drew Luedtke said.

The two reunited Oct. 18, 2008, the day he got home from training. Luedtke shipped out Jan. 4. By March 18, they were engaged. Without hesitation, the two decided to marry over the Internet.

"We viewed it as an opportunity more than anything," Michel said. "We were like, ‘Oh my God, we can do it over Skype? Let’s do it! We didn’t want to wait. It’s been seven years."

It took a week to take care of the cross-continental paperwork.

Finally the day came. The wedding itself was surreal, Drew Luedtke said.

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David Luedtke appeared on a grainy screen. He appeared to be in a cavernous bunker.

At home, Michel stood clutching a juice box her son had thrust into her hand while the pastor pronounced them husband and wife. Immediately, her sister burst into tears.

"It’s about time," said Luedtke’s mother, Jan. "He wanted this so bad."

The two newlyweds lingered over the computer screen, each unwilling to pull the plug.

At last, Luedtke said he had to go: His unit was leaving for a mission in five minutes.

Luedtke returned to the heat, the sandstorms, working on the trucks. That’s all he is authorized to tell his wife about how he spends his days.

"There’s very little he can say," his mother said. "That is very, very difficult. It’s very hard to close your eyes and picture your son in a country where someone is trying to hurt him. It hurts really deep."

Michel is back to her day-to-day life. For David’s sake, she stays positive, but there are some days when all she wants to do is dress up in his PT sweat suit, watch "Army Wives" and cry.

But for now, Michel is beside herself with happiness and relief. She had one simple wish on her wedding day: "I just want for him to be safe," she said. "I just want him to come back."

David Luedtke is scheduled to return stateside in October 2009. He will be able to come home before Thanksgiving.

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