Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Cody Ensley walked with a slow stride Tuesday night on the docks of Sunset Key.
He was grinning, but looked a bit overwhelmed, a rarity for someone in his line of work. The 26-year-old was about to get married. His arm was in a sling and he was fitted with a special brace on his leg.
Cameramen were dashing all around him.
Ensley suffered a traumatic brain injury six months ago in northeastern Afghanistan when a patrol he was on was hit by an improvised bomb. One of his comrades was killed instantly. Ensley was thrown as far as 35 feet from the explosion site, according to reports.
He has trouble speaking, but he was walking. Doctors told him he'd never be able to walk or use his arm ever again, said Tamra Edmonson, his mother.
Ensley and his girlfriend (now wife) are in Key West this week to scuba dive with the Texas-based nonprofit Task Force Dagger Foundation, which helps wounded soldiers from Special Operations Forces get on with their lives and recover from battle injuries.
Ashley Adams, 28, has been helping her longtime boyfriend recover from his injuries in San Antonio, Texas. They have long had plans to marry. She does sit ups with him every day, she said.
"This whole wedding happened purely by accident," said Keith David, a retired Green Beret who started the nonprofit in 2009 with three other Army commandos. David was dashing around taking pictures and cracking jokes.
The nonprofit comes to Key West annually, but this trip was particularly special.
"We were at the marina a few days ago and we jokingly asked them, 'Ya'll want to get married here?'"
To the surprise of the other injured Special Forces commandos and the group, the couple said yes.
Tears flowed, but David had a organizational mountain in front of him. He got on the phone and was happy to find enough vendors in Key West willing to give the couple storybook wedding for free.
"I was asked Saturday and after I heard their story, I said that's it: We're making it happen," said Diane Schmidt, general manager of the Westin Key West Resort Marina. "They deserve it."
The Task Force Dagger group flew in the parents and the race was on to get the pair hitched, David said.
It didn't take long for the men of the Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School on Fleming Key to catch wind of the plans and sure enough, four Green Beret dive instructors showed up to stand alongside Ensley at his wedding.
"It came up quick, but we all wanted to do it," said Chief Warrant Officer Larry Wadsworth. "We support each other in any way we can, especially a wounded warrior."
Usually, Army comrades will raise sabers for the bride to walk under for such occasions, but the couple had different plans for this wedding.
"We brought our dive fins that we painted their wedding date on and we're going to hold those up for her to walk under," Wadsworth said. "Far as I know it's never been done before. It's a first for us, but that's what they wanted and we're happy to be here."
Adams ran to Ensley as he got off the Sunset Key ferry and the pair shared a kiss. Ensley can only speak in bursts. He speaks in few words. Sometimes just a "yes" or "no."
When asked if he was ready to take the plunge, he turned and replied with a stern: "Yes!"
No follow-up questions needed. His wide grin told the story.