Soldiers’ Families Offer Thanks For Making Dream Wedding Come True

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BOAZ, Ala. (WHNT) -- The family of Army first lieutenant Bobby Hill has a surprise or two planned to welcome him back to the United States later this month.

One thing he was not expecting to come home to was an all expenses paid wedding.

He and his fiancée, Katie Durham, planned to pay for their wedding themselves and were saving the money earned during their deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Wednesday they learned it was taken care of, as the couple won Magnolia Plantation and Garden's "Sharing the Romance" contest.

Their mothers, Dana Hill and Annie Durham, began what they call "Moms on a Mission" to rally votes and help the young soldiers win the $50,000 dream wedding prize.

"From the bottom of our heart, from the Hill family and the Durham family, on behalf of Bobby and Katie, thanks a million times over," Dana Hill said in a message to WHNT News 19 viewers who voted.

She said she wasn't just happy to see her son on TV, and in newspapers in Marshall County, Etowah County, and Durham's home near Miami.

She was simply glad to see some positive news.

"Just to read about a couple that's fighting in Afghanistan, and they've had very little time in their courtship to spend with each other over the past three years, but here they are, still together, still fighting," she said.

"It's a beautiful love story."

It started when Bobby, a Jacksonville State University student from Boaz, went to Army Airborne school in 2009.

Dana Hill said her son called home soon after it started.

"He said, Mama I've met somebody.  I'm like, okay, you've only been there two weeks but okay.  And he said, you'll meet her at graduation if you and dad get to come up for graduation."

The Hills met Katie, and the couple began a long-distance relationship as she returned to school at Florida State University.

In late 2009 she came to visit Bobby's hometown, with which she already felt a connection.

"My mom's maiden name is Boaz," Katie said in a video called The Hill Project which she and Bobby taped in Afghanistan as their contest applications.

"We knew it was just meant to be."

Bobby proposed in December 2011, and in January, the couple deployed to Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne.

Hill is an infantry officer and Durham, also a first lieutenant, is a military intelligence officer.

"I think it was a comfort though to know they had each other there, even though they're in different parts of Afghanistan, just to know that they weren't there alone," Dana Hill said.

"The other one was just a few miles down the road."

However, they did not see each other often.

When supervisors helped arrange to get the couple together in May to tape the video application, it was just their third time to see each other in four months.

"Being on the deployment, we don't have a lot of time," Bobby said in the video.

"Katie definitely has not had a lot of time to plan a wedding or make any arrangements, so we would greatly appreciate any help we could get."

She spent some of her free time looking for possible wedding locations, and Dana Hill said her future daughter-in-law fell in love with Charleston, S.C., as a wedding destination.

That was before she discovered the "Sharing the Romance" contest, and as luck would have it, the prize was a wedding at an historic Charleston site.

"What a wonderful welcome home gift and just a heartfelt thanks to everybody who voted, everybody who supported them, and most of all for the prayers for their protection and safety," Dana Hill said.

"My words can never express the gratitude."

The prize package includes the bridal dress, tuxedos, limos, photographer, food, flowers, and much more.

Katie will meet with the wedding planner soon after her return from Afghanistan, and the couple will exchange vows February 9, 2013.

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