SAN DIEGO – Honoring his bride and a legacy of naval officers in his lineage, Lt. j.g. John Jackson wed Kelly Wenstrup during a wedding at sea on board the guided missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70), Sept. 19.
With months of planning and coordination behind him, one early Friday morning at the ammunition pier on board Naval Station Seal Beach, Jackson hurriedly prepared the ship’s Unit Commander’s Cabin for his bride, her family and bridesmaids.
Assisted by shipmates, he transitioned the office space into a memorable and exceedingly unique bridal room densely decorated in roses and rose pedals.
Anxiously awaiting the arrival of his bride and wedding party, he found himself busy with the many details of the wedding, details that he found more demanding than he originally thought.
He checked and rechecked his checklist: State of California marriage authorizations complete – check; security clearances complete – check; family members present – check; bride present – check… phew!; chaplain present – check, foc’sle ready – check, ship’s goat “Charlie” present – check. As his bride crossed the ship’s brow, he made himself scarce.
With certainty, this family day cruise as part of a transit from Seal Beach to San Diego would be more than just a day at sea aboard an acclaimed warship.
Lt. Austin Grimes, a Navy chaplain, officiated the ceremony and was assisted by Capt. John S. Banigan, Lake Erie’s commanding officer.
“I’m blessed to have been part of John’s and Kelly’s wedding and honored that they chose to do so aboard a purposely built warship,” said Banigan. “I know of no other that can say they got married aboard a ship designed for battle. I’m certain no other can claim that they married at sea with a goat serving as their ring bearer!”
Sept. 19 was special not only due to the wedding, it was also Lake Erie’s first Friends and Family Day Cruise following a homeport shift from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The transit from Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station in Orange County, California, to the ship’s new homeport at Naval Base San Diego provided the perfect opportunity for families to get a taste of shipboard life.
“I could not have imagined a more perfect day,” said Jackson as Lake Erie moored at Naval Base San Diego.
Indeed, the ceremony was beautiful with the sun peeking through the clouds during the couple’s vows. As Mr. and Mrs. Jackson shared their first kiss, a pod of dolphins joined Lake Erie riding in the wake of the bow to complete the picturesque moment.
The newly-wed couple disembarked the warship that evening with an experience not many share.