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Bride-to-be wishes for Marine tradition

Roberta Kelly of Jacksonville, N.C., is looking for a few good Capital Region men -- Marines.


By TERRY BROWN, Staff writer
First published: Saturday, February 25, 2006

That because she needs six Marines to participate in an "arch of swords" as part of her wedding to Gunnery Sgt. David Billa on March 25 at the Christ Lutheran Church in Johnstown in Fulton County.

Billa has just returned to his Jacksonville home from a tour in Al Taqaddum, Iraq, where he served as a motor transport section chief and mechanic. He helped fit his unit's tactical vehicles with enough armor to protect personnel. He and other mechanics kept those vehicles in a state of high readiness.

"I have been trying to find six Marines, active duty, Reserve or even retired who can do the arch of swords for us," Kelly says. "David is so dedicated to the Marine Corps and to this country," she says. "As a Marine, the arch of swords is a tradition that every Marine wishes for their wedding day."

When she and David decided to change their plans from the big military wedding at Camp Lejeune, N.C., to a smaller one with just a few friends and family, they became disappointed that they would have to give up the arch tradition.

While her fiance was on duty in Iraq, she said she decided, "As a gift to my future husband and also my way of thanking him for his dedication to our country, I want very much to make this happen for him."

She put out a call for volunteers.

So far, Kelly has lined up three Marines, including two from Quantico, Va., and a recruiter from a Johnstown station, Staff Sgt. Rene Mosley.

She did contact 1st Sgt. Richard Rosa of the Marine Reserve in Albany. But most of his Marines are deploying to Iraq.

Kelly said she can accept having the sword ceremony with just four Marines. So, she still needs at least one more Marine for the ceremony.

If any Marine can help, call Kelly at (540) 840-4610 or (910) 388-1037.

Billa's sons from a previous marriage will participate in the wedding. David Jr. will be best man, and Andrew will give the bride away. Kelly's sister, Karen Minor of St. Augustine, Fla., will be a bridesmaid, and a friend, Peggy Smith of Neptune, Fla., will be matron of honor.

Kelly's future husband enlisted in the Marines right after graduation from Johnstown High School in 1991. His mother and stepfather, Suzanne and Joseph Riach, live in Gloversville, and his father, Edward White, lives in Johnstown