For those of you men looking for an idea to propose to your girlfriend or for those girls out there who are looking for a marriage proposal story that will make you tingle inside, this could probably be the place to look for one of those stories. Let me first start off by saying that this is, in fact, a true story in my perspective of the events that happened on and before 9/10/11, the day I proposed to Megan.
To take you back, I bought the ring almost 10 months before I actually proposed to Megan because I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this woman. Keeping the ring locked safely in a electronic safe, I knew it would be there when I was ready (and when the world was ready for me to propose). We often talked about getting married and what type of life we would have with me being in the military and our obligations to each other, our work, and our families who would be living on the other side of the country.
Now since you know a brief history of how this whole proposal idea came about, here are the events leading up to the proposal.
Early in September of 2011, I was in the ‘request off calendar’ at work to mark down that I couldn’t work the weekend of September 9, 10, and 11 because I had an ROTC training event and some recruiting to do at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport Airfest. When I requested off that weekend I decided that that was the weekend that I was going to propose. Megan and myself are both avid aviation enthusiasts (both of us having a pilot license and meeting at our university in the flight program). I decided that an ‘aviation’ themed proposal would be a fun idea. Many thoughts raced through my head on how I could do this. I first looked at different plane rides offered at the airshow. I could have taken her on a biplane ride in an old airplane, but we wouldn’t have been able to sit next to each other (or even go for the ride at the same time) so I immediately ruled that out. Then I remembered. There is a company in Janesville that gives hot air balloon rides. Perfect.
I immediately called the Janesville Hot Air Balloon Company and asked to schedule a hot air balloon ride for September 9, 2011. Unfortunately, the day was booked. I had to settle for early in the morning of September 11 at 6 a.m. I scheduled the flight for that time and thought long and hard of a reason to surprise Megan to wake her up and go out that early in the morning. I thought about inviting her to go play golf, but she doesn’t play golf so that wouldn’t work. I even thought about moving the clocks forward, but I’m sure she would have suspected something because she would check her cell-phone.
On September 4 the new work schedule came out. I was surprised to see that I was scheduled to work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Nights. I started to panic to try to find someone to work for me. Unfortunately, there are only 3 bartenders and all 3 of us requested off for the weekend. I thought I was doomed to stay unengaged for another couple months. I pleaded and pleaded to the other bartenders and told them my masterful plan to propose. Then a miracle happened; another bartender said that she could work for me on Saturday night so I could propose that weekend.
Finally, the day of September 10 came around. That morning, I was in charge of a land navigation ROTC training event. It went off as scheduled and afterwards I was going to pick up Megan and go to Janesville to do some recruiting for the Army. Having the hot air balloon ride schedule for the next morning I was prepared to spend all day at the airshow and enjoy it with my soon-to-be fiancé. It was around 10:00 a.m. that I received a call from Jim, the hot air balloon pilot, that the passengers for the night flight cancelled and that there was an opening for us to go for a ride that night. I was ECSTATIC! I told him that would be great and we scheduled a time for us to meet him at 5:00 p.m. Well, the thing was it was already 10:00 a.m. and I was in Dubuque, Iowa. That is two hours away from Janesville. I immediately called Megan and told her that the training event ended early and that I was ready to go when she was. Luckily, she was ready to go. I swung by her apartment to pick her up and then we were off to Janesville.
The ride was long and I tried to keep my little secret by not saying much. Around 1:30 we arrived at Airfest and met with my parents, who were also recruiting and walked to the Army booth. We watched the show until about 3:30 when it ended. After arriving at home, we told Megan that we were going to go out to eat at the Fuji Steakhouse and Hibachi. She had NO IDEA that we were about to go on a hot air balloon ride. After putting on some nice clothes, I snuck downstairs to the safe and grabbed the ring. I shined in the lights, which of course, made me smile because I like shiny things and I already knew how I was going to ask the big question. I already had my camera in my pocket and I was ready to go when she came downstairs. My parents were on-board with the events of the night, so I told them that we had to run to the store quickly before going to the steakhouse and we would meet them there. Megan was a little confused about what errands we had to do, but she hopped in the car anyways.
After driving for about three minutes we arrived at the destination, the home of the pilot, Jim. He was out in the front testing the wind and making sure that the balloon was ready to go (which was in a big truck with Janesville Hot Air Balloon Company written on the side). The only thing Megan could say when we stopped was “No Way”. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I came up with the hot air balloon idea when I read one of Megan’s picture captions that said that one thing she wants to do before she dies is ride in a hot air balloon. I was about to make that happen. After meeting Jim and the crew, we hopped in his truck and headed for the launch site, just north of the city. We had the opportunity to help inflate the balloon, which was an awesome experience for both of us because we had never done such a thing. We held the opening of the balloon while he blew air inside with a large fan and started the heater to fully inflate the balloon. The large balloon attracted a lot of little kids and adults to come out and watch the process take place. After about fifteen minutes, the balloon was up and ready to fly. Not without a crowd watching, of course. Megan and I hopped into the basked with Jim and we were cleared to launch.
I’ve never been one for heights (even though I’m a pilot). I was holding on to the railing for dear life while he shot hot air into the balloon. We lifted off and all I could think about was if Megan was suspecting anything that might happen later that night. As we took off, we barely cleared the first batch of trees and we were heading southbound over the city. The sights of Janesville, WI were beautiful that night. The sky was clear, the wind was calm, and the sun was setting in the distance. Eventually I loosened my grips on the railings and I wrapped my arms around Megan and enjoyed the scenery as we floated over Janesville. It was a sight to see, kind of like a movie, where a man and a woman are standing in a hot air balloon looking off into the distant sunset (that was for those of you romantics out there). But really, it was nice and quiet up there. As we floated over more residential areas we were able to yell down to people on the streets waving at us. Consistently saying ‘hi’ to those folks stuck on the ground and not up in the air. It was then I realized that we heading straight for my granma’s house. I quickly called her and told her to go outside and look up so that she could see us in a hot air balloon. By the time we got around to her house, we were about two blocks away and I yelled ‘Hi Grandma’ at the top of my lungs. She heard me (brushing the dust off my shoulders). We snapped a few pictures of each other, which was pretty cool. It was a little bit after that when the sun was in a perfect location for those beautiful sunset pictures where we could angle the camera with us in it and have the awesome bright colors in the background. We took a few of those pictures and then it was time to land.
There was a crowd of kids watching us land. After we landed, Jim asked if it would be alright if he could give some of the kids an experience to go up and then down in the hot air balloon. I looked at my cell phone time and the sun’s position and reluctantly said yes. I couldn’t let the kids down and it would be selfish of me to deny them an opportunity they normally would get on any other occasion. It was getting dark and when all the kids finished their mini-ride, we rolled up the balloon and got into the truck. I called my parents while Megan was helping roll up the balloon to pick us up at Rotary Gardens at 8:30 p.m. They agreed to do so.
I quietly asked Jim if he could drop us off at Rotary Gardens, which is the botanical gardens down by the river. Megan was more than confused when we were dropped off in the dark at the gardens. This is where things got a little complicated. We headed for the front gate, but it was locked because it was dark and after hours. We then went to the main building because it said they were open. However, when we opened the door, it appeared to be a wedding reception or some type of fancy meal. After some quick thinking, I remembered another entrance around the corner that I thought had the chance of being open. Thank the lord, because it was open. We entered through the gate and all I could think about was putting that ring on Megan’s finger.
The next question was where am I going to propose? I’ve been to the gardens multiple times and there were so many choices. I could choose from either of the bridges, the gazebo, the water patio, or the English garden. After walking around for a couple of minutes, I chose the water patio. It was on the small pond with the moon on the opposite side of the pond, which gave a pretty cool illumination on the water. We sat down on the bench hold hands and facing the water while we watched the water glisten. We started talking about our future and our love for each other and then she asked why we were there. It was at that moment I snuck my hand into my left pocket, grabbed the little box with the ring in it. I got down on one knee in front of her and said, “Well, I’ve got an answer for you. Megan E.B. I love you and I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”
And the rest from there is history. She said “yes” and I put the ring on her finger. We stood up togetherand I gave her the biggest hug and kiss. We stared into each others eyes and smiled. We were thinking the same thing. We were thinking about how much we love each other and that we knew we were going to be together for a lifetime. I knew I made the right choice at that minute and had no regrets (and still none to this day). I look forward to marrying my best friend and the love of my life.