GIS UNDER FIRE AFTER MARRYING IRAQI GALS
Dan Kadison and Marsha Kranes, New York Post, 10/6/03
[photo of couple at website]
October 7, 2003 -- It's been no honeymoon for two Florida National
Guardsmen who met and married Iraqi women while serving in Baghdad.
The love-struck soldiers - Sgt. Sean Blackwell, 27, of Pace, Fla.,
and Cpl. Brett Dagen, 37, of Walnut Hill, Fla. - have been in hot
water since mid-August, when they defied their commander's orders and
marched down the aisle with their Iraqi sweethearts.
The two have been barred from seeing their brides, both English-
speaking physicians who have been working with Americans. They're not
even permitted to phone or e-mail them, according to the GIs'
"It's an embarrassment to the Army," said Dagen's mother, Laverne
A week before the double wedding ceremony, both GIs converted to
Islam. When news of their marriage plans reached their superiors, the
two soldiers were put on limited duty.
But they managed to secretly pull off their double "I dos," according
to a Baghdad-based reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
They did it while they were on foot patrol - wearing their uniforms
and bulletproof vests and carrying M-16 rifles.
Their brides and a few relatives, led by an intermediary, met them
along their patrol route, and then the wedding party ducked into a
courtyard for a quick exchange of rings and vows before an Iraqi
A half-hour later, the GIs resumed their patrol. They haven't seen
their wives since.
Their battalion commander opposed the marriages because he believes
they could distract his troops and compromise their safety, their
brides' safety and their mission, said a spokesman for the Florida
"If it's true love, in a few months, when we mobilize, they can
pursue it," Capt. Jack McClellan told the Journal-Constitution.
Until then, he said, "they are not allowed to see them."
Blackwell met his 25-year-old love while he was on guard duty at the
Iraqi Ministry of Health. She later played matchmaker and introduced
Dagen to a 26-year-old physician friend.
Both men had hoped to return to the states this month with their
brides. But a new Army policy requires troops to remain in Iraq for
12 continuous months, meaning Blackwell and Dagen will likely remain
in Iraq until April.
Both women asked that their names be withheld - for fear of
retribution by anti-American Iraqis.
Blackwell's mother, Vicki McKee, said her daughter-in-law, who now
works for a U.S. firm in Baghdad, "is being threatened over there on
almost a daily basis."
With Post Wire Services
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