Samantha Dilberian and Staff Sgt. Chris St. Onge of Tampa, Florida, say they didn’t realize how special their love story was until they actually had to put it down on paper so that they could apply to win a dream wedding.
“We live it, so we don’t really think about it,” Samantha, 26, tells PEOPLE. “But everyone seems to have the same reaction, everybody thinks it’s just such an amazing story.”
St. Onge, 27, served in Afghanistan with Samantha’s brother, Bryan Dilberian. The two were on a routine patrol in July 2011 with the rest of their squad when an explosion shocked them all.
“We’re not 100 percent sure what happened, we just know an explosion happened that wounded Bryan and killed another member of our squad,” St. Onge tells PEOPLE.
Bryan lost both of his legs and his left arm. St. Onge helped stop the bleeding and got him to the hospital.
“It was very tough,” St. Onge remembers. “You don’t think about it at that exact moment, you’re just worried about getting everyone out of there, but as soon as you get back to base that’s when it sets in all your emotions come to you.”
The Bronze Star recipient spent the next few months checking on his friend through emails with Bryan’s sister, Samantha.
“We just kept talking and one thing lead to another,” he says.
The two emailed and talked on the phone for eight months before they finally met in person.
“I think we both knew, we just didn’t know how to express it to each other,” St. Onge says.
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Samantha says the start of their relationship was nothing short of amazing. “Crazy, exciting. A little bit of every emotion you can imagine.”
Soon after the couple became engaged in August 2015, they heard about a contest for military personnel in the area. The owner of Old McMickey’s Farm in Odessa, Florida, says he’s so grateful for all that service men and women do, so he enjoys helping them celebrate the biggest day of their lives.
After dozens of entries were narrowed down to four finalists, the inspiring couple won the third annual “Mission I Do” Dream Wedding Giveaway, which included an impressive check for $30,000 to go towards their dream wedding at the waterfront venue at Old McMicky’s Farm.
“Chris and Samantha have a love story straight out of Hollywood, except it’s true. Old McMicky’s Farm is honored to be able to give such a deserving couple the wedding of their dreams” farm owner Ralph Zuckerman tells PEOPLE.
This past weekend, Brian served as the best man as almost 100 family and friends gathered to watch his sister marry his former squad leader in an emotional ceremony.
“Everything is just working out perfectly,” Samantha says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better husband than Chris and he’s so close to Bryan. It’s just perfect.”