By Danielle DeSimone

For most engaged couples, a wedding registry is an exciting chance to furnish and decorate their new home. But for newlyweds Ellie Daniels and Army Lt. Col. Kirk Daniels, they decided their wedding registry was a unique opportunity to give back to the military community and the organization that is always by their side.

As part of their prenuptial celebrations, Ellie and Kirk created several different fundraisers to raise money for the USO as an alternative gift option for guests who wanted to pay it forward in honor of their special day. One of these fundraisers was a USO Facebook Fundraiser, which the couple also encouraged friends and family to donate to in honor of Ellie’s birthday, which was shortly before the wedding.

Double Time: A Birthday and Wedding Facebook Fundraiser

As someone who normally tries to ignore her birthday, Ellie saw her June 19 birthday and their upcoming July 4 wedding as two perfect opportunities to use Facebook Fundraisers to give back to the military community by supporting the USO – an organization that both she and her husband have individually interacted with over the years.

Ellie had previously worked as a civilian for the Army for 10 years, spending seven years overseas in Germany before moving to El Paso, Texas. While working in Germany, Ellie first encountered the USO when she volunteered to serve Christmas dinner to service members who had stayed in the area for the holidays. She was very impressed with the organization. Today, Kirk uses USO airport centers whenever he travels and when deployed, he has used the USO’s free internet and WiFi to talk to Ellie back home.

“Without internet, the two of us wouldn’t be able to talk, so we’re both grateful for the USO … I know that since [my husband] still has at least a few more years in the service, we will likely utilize USO services ourselves, and hopefully continue to volunteer,” Ellie said.

“And we want to make sure that the organization can keep serving those who serve, even if our donation is small.”

Wedding Bells and Deployment Farewells

Ellie Daniels and Army Lt. Col. Kirk Daniels pose at their wedding in San Diego, California. | Photo credit SweetPaperMedia Wedding Photography

On July 4, 2019, Ellie and Kirk tied the knot in San Diego, California.

Having their wedding take place on Independence Day was a happy coincidence – most of the wedding party was either a service member or married to one, so the couple wanted to pick a date that would ensure all their guests would be able to attend.

Kirk, who has previously deployed twice to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was also set to deploy towards mid-to-late summer, and the couple wanted to be married before then.

“Plus,” Ellie said. “Now he can forever say that he lost his independence on Independence Day.”

The Daniels’ generosity, in light of their own wedding and deployment coming so soon after the ceremony, comes from a deep, firsthand understanding of the sacrifices service members, spouses and military families make on a daily basis.

When asked why she thought it was so important to support our nation’s service members and donate to organizations like the USO, Ellie explained that it was because service members believe in what the United States is and what it can be, and they are willing to make sacrifices for those ideals.

“They [make sacrifices] despite rank, religion or political beliefs because they have an understanding that there are things greater than themselves, and their families make their own sacrifices for the same reasons,” Ellie said.

“I am so proud of those who have chosen to serve – past, present and future – and I want to make sure to do my part, however small it may be, to support our nation’s military.”

Photo credit SweetPaperMedia Wedding Photography

Ellie Daniels and Army Lt. Col. Kirk Daniels pose at their wedding in San Diego, California.