Last week Garett Brada told his dad, “Today’s the day.”
Brada wasn’t referring to the prestigious honors that would be bestowed to him later that evening by the U.S. and European military. What occupied Brada’s mind was how he would propose to his longtime girlfriend, Erica Saiz, turning a night set aside to honor him into an evening to celebrate his love for her.
Brada and Saiz were guests at the USO’s annual tradition, the All Services Honoree Dinner. Brada, a Machinery Technician Third Class for the U.S. Coast Guard, was among 11 other honorees, one from each branch of the service for the U.S. Military as well as the European Military Forces and U.S. Africa Command. The men and women were being honored for their courage, commitment and dedication to serving our respective nations.
The honoree dinner traditionally takes place the evening before the USO Europe Service Salute- a formal event to recognize and honor outstanding U.S. enlisted service members in conjunction with their host country military counterparts.
USO Europe and their corporate sponsors host the honorees, their commanding officers, and guests at an intimate dinner the night before the Service Salute. The dinner serves as an icebreaker. Guests mingle with one another as well as take in the beautiful German culture during an evening filled with traditional food, drink and entertainment.
During the informal and quaint ceremony each honoree was presented with a medal and plaques celebrating their achievements and symbolizing the relationship and support provided between the U.S. and European armed forces.
Although, all of that pomp and circumstance was probably lost on Banda and Saiz as moments before, Banda dropped to one knee with the 13th century castle nestled into the German countryside serving as a backdrop for his proposal.
“He kept asking me to go over to this spot to take a photo- to get a photo with the views. I thought it was odd,” said Saiz.
The couple met in the Maui, Hawaii airport seven years ago. “I actually saw her in church the night before,” said Banda. “I lost sleep thinking about her and the next day I saw her in the airport. “
“He walked right up to me and interrupted a conversation I was having with a woman,” continued Saiz.
“I could have proposed to her that night in the airport,” said Brada.
The couple is unfortunately living apart with Brada currently forward deployed out of Manama, Bahrain and Saiz residing in Seattle, Washington. They hope to spread roots in California after they get married.
Although those thoughts and plans seem a little removed as the couple basks in their engagement. “We are just so excited,” said Saiz. Now they look forward to calling the states to share the news with family and friends. - Andrea Sok, USO Communications Manager