Ever thought that two people were simply made for each other and that fate had truly brought them together? Well, it seems that this is exactly what happened when Kiersten Downs and Thomas Martineau met. Amazingly, they first met on Facebook when Kiersten was looking for players for a disabled basketball team she was working for at the time. From that point onwards, it seemed like their love was written in the stars. However, that is just one part of this remarkable story, which was ultimately capped off by an incredible moment at their own wedding. With everything planned, Thomas, the groom in question, still managed to organize a secret plan for the wedding that would completely take his newlywed wife by surprise
Something’s Not Right
Kiersten Downs was ready to enter the rustic barn venue to marry the love of her life. With a wedding reception like no other, the young lady couldn’t wait to see her dazzling groom. However, nobody could find him.
Originally being completely overwhelmed with excitement, Kiersten Downs was now panicking at the prospect of her big day collapsing before her very eyes. But then, Michelle, her wedding planner, brought her into the barn. Something fishy was going on…
As a bride, you want everything to go exactly according to plan. So if any crazy surprises happen or something doesn’t go your way, it’s understandable to feel a little stressed out.
This certainly applied to Kiersten Downs, who entered the barn-turned-ballroom hoping that her groom would be on the other side of the barn door. At that moment, Wishing Well Barn’s wedding planner Michelle told Kiersten that the groom, Thomas Martineau had simply gone to the bathroom. However, that definitely wasn’t the truth…
Veterans Of Love
35-year-old Kiersten Downs should have been more used to unexpected occurrences, especially after serving in the Air Force. The Tampa, Florida resident and her groom to be, 33-year-old Thomas Martineau, both did the noble honor.
In a sharp twist of irony, he returned from duty after suffering zero injuries, only to end up in a terrible motorbike accident a decade ago. The accident, which happened before he met Kiersten, meant that Martineau would be paralyzed chest down, losing the use of his legs…
Barriers To Marriage
Despite the physical challenges that Thomas has faced, the couple has adapted over the years and, having met him after his accident, Kiersten didn’t know him any other way.
Certainly not your typical couple, Kiersten and Thomas’s shared involvement in the Air Force was certainly a great way for them to break the ice. Interestingly, the couple actually met on Facebook. Kiersten had been looking for a player for The Tampa Bay Strong Dogs, a basketball team comprising of disabled veterans.
Although a number of logistical problems have been thrown at them over the years, especially where their wedding plans are concerned, Kiersten and Thomas have never lost hope that one day they would tie the knot.
Determined to have Kiersten’s grandmother attend their nuptials, they moved the date to December 2016. After meeting the rest of the Downs family, buying Kiersten’s wedding gown, and putting the down payment on the venue, everything seemed to be going to plan. Until…
Fighting For His Life
It was just a matter of days prior to their big day that Kiersten and Thomas received a huge setback in their wedding plans. It turns out that the groom’s paralysis was causing some unforeseen problems and, as a result, he needed to be taken to an emergency room immediately.
There is no doubt that this was a challenge the couple had not seen coming. After spending so much time fighting for some quality medical care from the hospital, they now faced this huge problem.
A Glimmer Of Hope
Despite facing such a tough ordeal just days before their wedding, Thomas would get some much needed good luck at this critical time. However, with his health being the top priority, the couple chose to reschedule the event to March 2017.
“Being in the chair, I thought I could never be able to live up to being the husband that she could have,” he said. “That was a fear I always had: Having the wedding…and having to settle for things as they were.”
A Devious Scheme
While both the bride and groom were rescheduling the event together, Thomas took some matters into his own hands as he was keeping a secret from Kiersten.
As she was busy studying for her Ph.D. in applied anthropology at grad school, Thomas was able to be very discrete without his partner growing suspicious. While she was in the home stretch after six long years of study, Thomas saw the opportunity to plan something special that she would never see coming…
Thomas’s remarkable story began back in 2004 when he joined the Air Force. For four years, the man who would eventually be Kiersten’s groom worked as a Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Technician. Eventually, he would earn the rank of staff sergeant and was a well-respected member of his team.
However, his entire experience in the Air Force would be marred by the motorbike accident that happened after he returned home from service. Feeling “depressed and despondent,” Thomas needed something to get his life back on track…
As for the groom’s bride-to-be, Kiersten Downs, she also had many reasons to feel proud of her service. Having also followed in the footsteps of her grandfather, who served in World War II, 18-year-old Thomas was inspired to continue the family’s legacy.
Amazingly, the first two of her three tours saw Kiersten travel to some of the smaller islands in the Pacific. It was here where she would load bombs. However, her deepest memory came during her tour in Iraq.
Horrors Of War
Upon arriving at her Iraqi airbase in 2006, Kiersten didn’t quite realize how painful and emotionally devastating war could truly be. And the moment that she started to see bombs hit Iraqi buildings, something struck a chord with her.
Walking through local hospitals and seeing the victims of the war also upset her a lot. Upon returning to the United States, Kiersten was a broken person and needed something, or someone, to come into her life to help her truly heal.
The Longest Mile
After returning home and being awarded a scholarship in honor of her service, Kiersten was still finding a way to make sense of everything that just happened in Iraq.
It was clear that the young lady would need a lot of time to process everything, with so many emotions going on at once. Then one day, she thought of a great idea: to ride a bike across the country. Amazingly, this 3800-mile trip may have been the reason she ended up meeting Thomas…
A Harrowing Beginning
Of course, a lot of planning and training would need to be done in order to embark on a successful cross-country bike ride. However, upon starting her journey in California, Kiersten was in for a big shock to the system.
It was at the moment she began to pedal that it hit her – California is not a particularly flat state. Due to the mountainous landscape and the many sharp angles and steep roads, Kiersten was on the verge of a life-threatening accident…
The moment happened when Kiersten was in the middle of a high-velocity ride up a mountain, exerting all of her power with every pedal.
Although she was pulling through, the fact that she was alone made Kiersten’s life flash before her very eyes when the front wheel of her bike hit a pothole. Not only did she fly off her bike, but she fell hard on the asphalt. However, the accident carried on, ensuing with the arrival of a huge truck…
With a huge truck arriving around the corner, Kiersten jumped back on her bike and with as much adrenaline as possible, tried her very best get out of the way.
Just in time, Kiersten was able to get her bike and herself off the road as the tractor-trailer stampeded right through the spot she had just landed on. With her leg in an extreme amount of pain, Kiersten limped for six long miles before she finally found another human being. Amazingly, it was her mother…
Despite getting some much-needed support from her mother, Kiersten was dealt such a huge blow in her ride after just a week. In order to focus on her health, she took a step back from the journey.
Although her ride was postponed, she had raised money for the Student Veterans of America. Seeing that the charity had such a huge network of people involved, Kiersten received a ton of support and many students ended up doing the cross-country ride in solidarity.
Moving onto her next project, Kiersten started recruiting for a disabled veteran basketball team. It wouldn’t take long before Kiersten and Thomas started talking online and, while they struck a bond, it would take some time before they met in person.
After becoming the successful candidate for the basketball team, Thomas found himself in need of some help. Along came Kiersten to the rescue, with a box of Thai food. However, Thomas didn’t like it. “The food was horrible,” he said. “But I knew the moment she opened the door she was the one.”
Relics From The Past
While Kiersten and Thomas pretty much hit it off instantly, there were a few fascinating details that they would learn about each other. If it was somebody else, these details could have very much been a deal breaker.
Kiersten soon learned that Thomas had a couple of kids from a previous relationship. Also, Kiersten had previously been reluctant to marry anyone. However, the two were able to confront their pasts head on and embrace everything about each other.
After so many hiccups and speedbumps along the way, the bride and groom had rescheduled their wedding date for the third time. They were extremely hopeful that this would be the last time they would have to make any huge changes.
However, there will still some details about the wedding that hadn’t been hashed out, such as the nature of their first dance. “I thought I was going to sit on his lap and roll around and grab the kids to dance and sort of improvise,” she said.
A Plan Is Formulated
After years of service and meeting so many unique people from different backgrounds, it made sense that Thomas would have a couple of connections here and there.
One of his friends, Stephen Hill, was a medical sergeant who eventually became a lead trainer at Tampa’s Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center. Funnily enough, this was the very same place that Thomas had recovered from his own injury. It turns out that Hill would be the guy to work with Thomas on his top-secret plan…
Stephen Hill was the guy who the groom trained under in order to get into great shape for the wedding. Thomas knew that he needed to be in top condition for such a demanding day. In order to make it a surprise, he didn’t tell Kiersten about his training routine.
However, it was pretty easy, especially since his bride-to-be was so busy, immersed in her studies. That wasn’t all though. The two guys were up to something that would take the wedding day to another level…
The Excitement Builds
It may have been a winter day in Tampa, but there was no denying that everyone was extremely excited about the wedding. Kiersten woke up at the crack of dawn and she simply couldn’t contain all of the emotions that she was going through.
With virtually everything prepared for her big occasion, all Kiersten needed to do now was sit back and have her hair styled and makeup done. However, her secretive groom was up to something else entirely…
Zero Hour Draws Near
While Kiersten was busy getting herself ready for the occasion, Thomas the groom was sitting back as he questioned whether or not his seemingly foolproof plan would actually work. Amazingly, there were only three people attending the wedding that knew about his plan.
These were him, the wedding planner Michelle, and his friend, Stephen Hill. Despite being completely prepared, Thomas was worried that something would go wrong. Nevertheless, the event was approaching and Thomas needed to trust himself.
A Ceremony For The Ages
When it came to the actual ceremony, both the bride and the groom were thrilled to look back on it knowing that nothing went wrong. Everything went according to plan when they recited their vows.
With all of their friends and family in attendance, nobody batted an eyelid when Kiersten, the beautiful bride, walked down the aisle in her incredible white lace dress. They recited their vows, exchanged rings and kissed each other before the big surprise ensued…
The Final Frenzy
With the build-up to the wedding party in full effect, Stephen Hill pulled Thomas to one side to discuss their secret plan. “Steve came in the day of the wedding, and he was sure it was going to work,” he said.
“He was literally running around getting gear during the ceremony. It wasn’t until pictures afterward, the wedding planner, who was the only person in the loop, came and grabbed me.” Before he knew it, some music started to play…
Unbreaking Your Heart
When she was standing outside the barn venue worried about her seemingly missing husband, Kiersten was completely taken by surprise when the song “Unbreaking Your Heart,” which was planned for their first dance, started playing. At that very moment, Michelle dragged her inside, where Thomas was waiting for her.
The wedding planner explained that the groom was waiting for her in the barn’s secondary entrance. And although she was reassured that everything would be fine and she danced her way into the hall, something then happened that completely turned this story upside down…
The Surprise Of The Century
Kiersten was absolutely lost for words. “I danced my way in and had to adjust my eyes because something was different,” she told Today. Amazingly, Thomas was not in his wheelchair. He was standing straight in the middle of the dance floor.
Overwhelmed with joy and confusion, Kiersten went over to Thomas and held him. In the most natural of ways, they started to dance in sync to their beautiful song. But how exactly did the groom overcome such a challenge?
It was a mystery that was perplexing everyone in attendance. The explanation behind the groom’s incredible recovery was pretty simple: Stephen Hill and Thomas had applied a system of wires to the ceiling of the barn, which supported the harness that was holding the veteran upright.
It wasn’t just Kiersten who was overwhelmed with joy to dance with her husband. Thomas’s kids were also delighted to see their father standing. They also got a chance to dance with their dad.
Circle Of Friends
It was perfectly natural for Kiersten to be worrying about whether the harness was secure enough or not. Thomas and Stephen also raised their concerns while planning the audacious move. However, the entire trick worked and the newlyweds were able to dance the night away.
“When you surround yourself with a good community, anything can happen. We met people who put us in touch with Steve, through those open mics — they all had an incredible impact on us,” Thomas said.
Although it has been a long, exhausting journey leading up to Kiersten and Thomas’s incredible wedding, in their mind, it was all completely worth it. Now, they are very optimistic about the future and are ready for anything.
“I can’t express enough how important it is to…engage with the communities around you, whether they have a past in the military or they are civilians,” she said. “[B]uilding relationships is the key to successfully reintegrating after we leave the military.”