Story by Staff Sgt. Amber Corcoran, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — During the recent Defenders of Liberty Air Show, April 26, there were birds, well U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, a lot of planes and though not Superman himself, but a Maintenance Airman who could be viewed that way by his son and girlfriend. The day was full of activity and thousands of people, but Staff Sgt. Mark Pritchett had a big surprise in store.
The plan, thrown together quickly within about 24 hours, was for the 2nd Maintenance Group Airman to propose to his girlfriend during the Barksdale Air Show in front of the entire crowd.
“I had gotten the ring the day before the Air Show and when I saw it, I thought ‘why wait’, so I talked to my buddy about it and he suggested I propose at the show,” said Pritchett, who works at the Maintenance Operations Center. “I made several phone calls to get everything set up, including calling my girlfriend’s parents to ask their permission. It wasn’t the way I wanted to do it, over the phone, but I explained what I wanted to do and they gave me their blessing.”
Pritchett rushed to get the plan moving before his girlfriend, Chelsea Persons, arrived in town from Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“My original plan was to propose during a hot air balloon ride I had scheduled for her birthday, July 1,” said Pritchett. “Chelsea even had it narrowed down to a three-week span around her birthday that I would propose – because I’m bad at secrets.”
Nervous and jittery the day of the Defenders of Liberty Air Show, Pritchett began making excuses as to why he was running around talking to people and realized he was “acting kind of sketchy.”
“I recently got back from a deployment to Guam so I told her I thought I was going to have to go back to replace someone and she said, ‘Oh that’s why you’ve been acting weird’,” he said.
Having gone through the process of getting approval from Maj. Warren Carroll, the Air Show director, with the help of Master Sgt. Eduardo Medina, Pritchett’s flight chief, the moment of the big question arrived.
“Chelsea, my son Carson and I were walking around with some friends, looking at the statics and flying acts and we happened to ‘come across’ my supervisor by the announcer’s booth,” he recalled. “We spoke with him for a few minutes when Major Carroll walked up and asked if we wanted to go up to booth. Of course he was in on it, but Chelsea still had no idea what was happening. Right before we walked up to the booth, my friend Kelsi, who was standing on the other side of Chelsea, passed the ring box right behind her back and I shoved it in my pocket quickly.”
The narrator spoke to Pritchett for a few minutes and then gave him the floor to pop the question.
“It completely caught her off guard – she was pretty nervous up there too,” he said. “I was down on one knee and she has Carson on her hip and at first all she says is ‘Look at Daddy’ to Carson and I’m thinking, ‘Don’t hide behind the kid, this is about you’!”
Chelsea of course said yes and there was huge applause.
The wedding date has been set for Sept. 27, 2014.
“It’s during football season, but it’s ok because it’s a bye-week for Alabama,” said Pritchett. “That’s how we decided- it’s not too hot, not too cold and it’s a bye-week for University of Alabama football.”
Pritchett’s son even confirmed the upcoming nuptials when Chelsea asked him if she could be a “Pritchett”. His response, “Yeah, you can be a Pritchett.”
“She’s a natural nurturer and Carson loves her,” said Pritchett. “She’s also really excited to be a part of the Air Force family. I greatly appreciate how much everyone helped out. A big thank you to everyone who was able to make this happen; it made for the perfect weekend!”