Newlyweds heading to Iraq together

MAHOMET – Sgt. Amanda Christopher Calle married Sgt. Matthew Christopher in March. And soon, the newlyweds will be going overseas for tours of duty in Iraq.

They volunteered. They believe in the work. And they are both looking forward to helping out the soldiers fighting in the war effort.

Amanda, who graduated from Mahomet-Seymour High School in 2000, and Matthew will accompany an Army combat support hospital overseas this fall.

"I just feel like it was my turn to go," said Amanda from their temporary home in Fort Polk, La.. "I felt like I had been sitting on the sidelines long enough. Me going meant one person was able to not go again or at least stay (home) a little bit longer."

Matthew shares her commitment.

"This is what I joined the army to do," he said.

The couple will first go to Fort Campbell, Ky., and then to Iraq for a possible 15-month deployment. Amanda will work with critically injured soldiers, stabilizing them in one to three days. The wounded soldiers will then be flown to a larger hospital in Germany or the United States. That's where Matthew's job will come in. He'll coordinate the air evacuations.

This won't be the first time out of the country for Amanda. After graduating from high school, she did missionary work in Bangladesh and Germany for a year with the organization Youth With a Mission. When she returned, she earned an associate's degree at Parkland College and transferred to Illinois State University to pursue a bachelor's degree in nursing. In her junior year, she made the decision to leave college and join the army. She went to basic training in February 2004.

Matthew grew up in Wilmington, N.C. He graduated high school in 2003 and reported to basic training in May 2004.

Both eventually ended up at Fort Polk, La. and met while working in the hospital in April 2006. Amanda worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse in labor and delivery, and Matthew worked as the non-commissioned officer in charge of air evacuation and admissions.

They had dated for about 10 months when Amanda learned she was being deployed to Iraq. The two didn't want to be separated.

"We knew that if we got married then for sure the army would be able to keep us together," Amanda said.

"We were going to get married either way, but that kind of just made it progress quicker than we expected it to," Matthew said. "But I'm glad we did it."

The couple had a small ceremony in the hospital chapel at Fort Polk on March 21. Once they were married, they still did not know if they would be deployed together, even though Matthew had volunteered to go to Iraq also.

When Amanda's unit arrived at Fort Polk for training this past spring, she heard there was an open slot for a non-commissioned officer in charge of air evacuation and admissions – Matthew's job.

"Of course I was talking to all their chain of command and said 'You know, is there any way you can put my husband in that open slot?'" Eventually, it worked out. Matthew got the position and the couple will stay together.

Both remain positive about serving overseas, though admittedly nervous about going to a war zone. But Amanda said they work through their nervousness.

"I think knowing that everybody is praying for our protection and our support," she said. "I really believe that's something that will keep us safe."

When the couple returns from Iraq, they plan to have a big wedding with family – and possibly dual careers in the Army.

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