Couple weds in historic chapel

Tech. Sgt. Damien Cole, 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician, and Lisa Gonzalez exit the historic Clay National Guard Center Chapel as husband and wife Aug. 9. Their wedding ceremony was the first to take place in the former Dobbins Chapel, since being located from Dobbins Air Reserve Base to the Clay National Guard Center in 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

Tech. Sgt. Damien Cole, 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician, and Lisa Gonzalez exit the historic Clay National Guard Center Chapel as husband and wife Aug. 9. Their wedding ceremony was the first to take place in the former Dobbins Chapel, since being located from Dobbins Air Reserve Base to the Clay National Guard Center in 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miles Wilson)

CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Ga. -- For Tech. Sgt. Damien Cole, 94th Aeromedical Staging Squadron medical technician, Aug. 9 will forever hold a place in history.

First, he married his bride, Lisa Gonzalez, whom he met in the seventh grade, on this memorable day. The date holds a special significance for the couple as their wedding ceremony was the first to take place in the former Dobbins Chapel, since being located from Dobbins Air Reserve Base to the Clay National Guard Center in 2013.

"Like this chapel, it's been a long journey for Lisa and I" said Cole. "It took me 23 years to get her to the altar."

When the two classmates met in North Carolina, neither imagined it would lead to this day. Upon graduating high school, Cole enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, while Gonzalez went on to marry. The two reunited in 2008, started dating in 2009, and with a few ups and downs, their relationship has blossomed.

"This chapel symbolizes our relationship," said Gonzalez. "It was in danger of being torn down, but was saved, and it is standing tall and strong."

Built at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C in 1942, the chapel arrived at Dobbins in 1949. It became plagued by decades of wear and tear, and increased security and logistics requirements following the 9/11 attacks mandated its move.

In May 2005, Air Force Reserve Command approved and funded its demolition. While officials at Dobbins wanted to preserve the facility, as a host Reserve base, Dobbins was not authorized a chapel and could not provide renovation funds to make major repairs and bring the facility up to current building codes.

Members of the Dobbins Chapel Foundation led the charge to relocate the chapel. After seven years of what many called love, sweat and tears, funds were raised and ownership was transferred to the Georgia National Guard.

"The measure of one's love for something is what you're willing to sacrifice for it," said Cole.

The couple admits that their budget also played an important part of their decision to have their nuptials performed in the chapel.

"We had initially decided to have our wedding and reception in the same location, since we were working on a budget," said Cole. "My wife then decided that it would be nice to hold them in separate locations. I immediately thought of the chapel."

Lt. Col. Blair Davis, Georgia National Guard operations chaplain, thought Cole's idea to have their wedding ceremony in the chapel was an excellent one.

"The Clay NGC Chaplains Office is honored that the Cole's decided to hold such an important milestone in their lives here in our chapel," he said. "That's why the chapel is here."

Gonzalez says that the chapel will always hold a special place in her heart, and hopefully by sharing their story, it will inspire others to never give up on something, or someone, that they love.

"Before our wedding, I never knew the chapel's story, and the support and dedication it took from a community that cared, to save it," she said. "I would recommend this beautiful chapel as a wedding location to anyone. It was perfect! It not only gave us a southern traditional feeling, but a feeling of love, and foundation."

Qualified Department of Defense personnel who are interested in holding a special ceremony in the historic Clay NGC chapel can contact the Army National Guard chaplains' office at 678-569-3692.