VAIL — Rachel MacVean and Jason Hallett love each other, love Vail and wanted to be married here.
They’re in town for a summer session of the Vail Veterans Program. So, they decided they’d just do it. They’d go to the courthouse, find a judge and get married.
But it didn’t turn out that way. It turned out better.
But before we can tell you that story, we have to tell you this story.
This love story starts young.
Jason spotted Rachel when they were in junior high in the Fort Collins area. They were so twitterpated that their parents thought they might run off to Wyoming and get married.
“We tried to do a runaway wedding,” Rachel said.
They didn’t make a clean getaway and D. Michael MacVean, Rachel’s father and a man of strong will and Scottish heritage, put his foot down and had a little come-to-Jesus meeting with young Jason.
“I told him that he needed to learn some responsibility,” Michael said. “When he learned that, he could come back and court my daughter.”
Michael promised to buy him dinner when he came back.
They were in high school by that time. Jason had been planning since the eighth grade to join the military after graduation. He walked from the commencement line to the Marines almost faster than you can say “Semper Fi.”
Fast forward to Jason’s Alive Day, the day he was hit and did not die.
He was with his unit in Saigon, Afghanistan, going through a compound that they were told contained high value targets. Learning what those targets might be was their mission. They were checking out some sheds and Jason warned his buddies to avoid wires hanging from a doorway they had not seen. They might trigger a booby trap.
Moments later, on their way out of the sheds, he stepped on a homemade bomb. The pain was searing and his screams sounded like they were coming from someone else far away.
He was airlifted to medical help, and so began his long, painful road back. Between the bomb and his doctors’ amputations, Jason is a triple amputee left with three fingers on his left hand. He doggedly set about healing and recovery.
Rachel didn’t hear much from him for the better part of five years. She went to college, majoring in psychology, and got on with her life. But Jason was always in her mind and heart.
Michael observed that his daughter Rachel tends to attract attention. She’s beautiful, as you can see. She chose Jason.
“That speaks volumes about him as a man,” Michael said.
About a year ago in June, Jason found Rachel on Facebook and contacted her. The man’s heart is honest and true, and he let her see all the photos. She was heartbroken. But inside it all he was still Jason, the man she fell in love with at such a tender age.
Jason invited her to a birthday party, and she agreed to go. By then he was walking on prosthetic legs, and walked right back into her heart.
“They fell in love by the second day,” Michael said.
They waited all they way until their third day together to say the “L” word to each other.
Love and marriage
Jason, Rachel and their families live in Fort Collins. Jason had hinted around for a week or so about wanting to get married in Vail this week. Rachel got the hint, but still made him ask.
Speaking of asking, you remember that dinner Michael promised Jason? Jason called Michael and said, “I’d like to have that dinner you owe me.”
At dinner, Jason gave a nervous speech about having learned responsibility. Finally, he asked the question he’d come to ask.
“He asked for my daughter’s hand in marriage,” Michael said.
Michael said he thought of the boy he sent away who became a Marine, the agony, the years of rehab and the man it made him.
“I agreed,” Michael said smiling.
Jason proposed on Thanksgiving, in front of Rachel’s entire family.
At Tuesday’s opening night dinner for this Vail Veterans Program session, Rachel and Jason told VVP founder and executive director Cheryl Jensen they were getting married Wednesday, probably at the courthouse. Jensen had a zillion things circling her at the time and said, “OK!”
Rachel and Jason had let their families in on the plan at about 9 p.m. on Tuesday, with phone calls from Vail to Fort Collins.
When Jensen woke up Wednesday morning, her mind was clearer and she thought, “The courthouse?!? Certainly not!”
So at about 9 a.m. on Wednesday, she started making phone calls, figuring out how to plan a wedding. They were out of cell service for the next couple of hours, transporting other Vail Veterans Program participants to rock climbing.
By 2 p.m., Rachel and Jason and their families were before Rev. Erik Williams in the backyard of the Sonnenalp hotel. They had flowers, a cake and all of the regular stuff weddings have.
Somewhere, somehow, Rachel managed to get a manicure and pedicure. She looked stunning. Jason’s only disappointment was that his leg is broken and he couldn’t stand on his prosthetics for his wedding.
Jason didn’t look at the minister; Rachel barely did. And why would they? They have each other.
When the time came, she leaned down and they whispered their vows to each other, while they held each other like they’d never let go. Williams then pulled out Rachel’s Bible and read the passage she and Jason had selected, the one from Corinthians, the one about true love.
Finally, they kissed and Williams introduced them.
“It is my privilege to introduce to you for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Jason and Rachel Hallett.
A break in the afternoon clouds let a few shafts of sunlight cascade down on the ceremony. God was already smiling.
Rachel, 22, is Jason’s caretaker. Jason, 23, is working his way into the financial industry.
“Rachel has always been a whole lot of person,” said Gretchen Kenny, Rachel’s mother. “Jason is the most strong-willed person I’ve ever met, except for Rachel.”
They’ll move into their house in Windsor together, specially adapted to accommodate Jason. It’ll be done in December.
“We want it to be the Hallett House,” Rachel said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.