Three Veteran Love Stories, One Free Dream Wedding

Wedding dreams are about to come true for one military couple, but first they need your vote.

photo via hotel monaco's facebook page


Weddings can be expensive. Even the most frugal bride can’t avoid dropping a decent chunk of change on the most special day of her life, and for many couples, the wedding of their dreams is simply not the wedding of their budget.

Enter the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh. The venue is offering an all-expenses-paid dream wedding to one lucky couple where at least one spouse is a military veteran. Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh has partnered with Bonnie Walker Events, Revolution Events, Studio-E Entertainment and Theodora and Troy Polamalu’s The Harry Panos Fund for Veterans to create a Warrior Wedding Giveaway. Together, these vendors aim to provide all of the necessary ingredients to cook up what they intend to be a breathtaking event set for Dec. 13.

They’ve already narrowed their search down to three couples with touching stories of service, and now they need your vote to help them select a winner from the finalists. Read the three moving love stories below, and then cast your vote on the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh Facebook page.

photo provided

Steven Waskin and Savanna Maker

Steven Waskin’s uncle and Savanna Maker’s mother had been trying to set up the two for years, but it wasn’t until Steven was deployed to Egypt that sparks began to fly between them.

Savanna became Steven’s rock during this difficult time, and the more they talked, the more they realized their friendship was evolving into love.

When Steven returned home to Pittsburgh in February 2015, he rode down the escalator at Pittsburgh International Airport to see his friend, confidant and one-woman support system waiting for him.

“It was the most magical moment,” Steven says. “When she hugged me, it felt like a lifetime. Savanna was the one through it all who stayed by my side and gave my life light when I could not see light myself. The one who stayed up all night long talking to me even when she had to be up early for work. The one I could never picture my life without. The one I want to marry.”  


photo provided

Ryan Leonard and Kristen Changle

New Jersey native Ryan Leonard and Kristen Changle, of Carnegie, both serve with the U.S. Armed Forces. Ryan, a father of twins, enlisted in the U.S. Navy and in 2012 received an assignment to the 911th Airlift Wing. Kristen joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2009, and they met, as fate would have it, on Veterans Day 2014.

“All of the obstacles in my life led me straight to the moment that I would meet the girl of my dreams,” Ryan says. “Every twist and turn life throws our way, we know we can get through it because we have each other.”

The two already know what song they will share their first dance to — “So Easy” by Phil Phillips, a representation of how easily they fell in love.

“From day one, she’s made it so easy to fall so hard,” Ryan says. “Kristen is a beautiful girl and a beautiful soldier, inside and out. To give her this moment, to see her face on our special day, that’s a memory that lasts a lifetime. When I look at her, I think ‘There’s no one out there more perfect for me than you.’”


photo by erin mccay of memories by mccay


Matthew Brown and Hannah Reese

In 2007, Matthew Brown had just returned home from a long and difficult year with the 2nd Marine Division in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. He was sitting in a bar in McKeesport when a beautiful new bartender walked into his life.

Matt says meeting Hannah Reese was exactly what he needed at exactly the right time.

“She pulled me from my darkest places and helped me become the man and the father that I am today,” Matt explains. “Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. I have to say, without Hannah, I most likely could have become a statistic. I was on a path of destruction. I was alone and scared. She helped me to see brighter days, urged me to seek help for the demons I was battling, and set me on the right path.”

Though Matt is the veteran, he says Hannah is “the true hero in our story.”

The lovebirds have two children together, Alayna, 4, and Colton, 8 months. Colton recently was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, bringing the fiancés' wedding plans to a halt. “Having our son be a part of our wedding is of the utmost importance to us,” says Matt. “We do not know how long we have with him, and all of our funds, time and energy currently go to caring for Colton. A dream wedding would mean the world to us.”


Vote at by Sept. 10, and you’ll be entered to win one of three prizes of an overnight stay at Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh. The winning couple will be announced on Sept. 11, at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, during the Warriors Rock Concert benefiting Operation Strong Vet and the Harry Panos Fund for Veterans.  


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