How It All Started
Wayne and Angie Eggleston were both active duty Air Force. Theirs was a typical dual-career life of juggling home, parenthood, and work until a day in June, 1997, when their 16 year old son, Chris, did not come home from school. For five days hundreds joined police in searching for the boy until two Special Operations soldiers found his body, tied with rope, buried in a shallow grave behind his high school.
During these excruciating days, the entire Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, North Carolina community wrapped its arms around Angie and Wayne, holding and supporting the devastated couple with acts of kindness that continue even to this day. Somehow they survived the initial shock, the investigations and the trials. “Without our faith and the overwhelming support of family, friends and strangers, we would not have survived.”, Wayne said.
Two years after Chris’s death, Angie and Wayne retired from the Air Force and moved to Myrtle Beach where they later opened their own business, Wayne’s View Photography, Inc.
Little by little, time helped lift the fog of despair lodged deeply in their souls. Finally rounding a bend in their lifelong journey through grief, Angie often remembered the amazing gestures of kindness and support they had received throughout their ordeal, especially from those in the Fort Bragg Special Operations area. Over weeks and months, she and Wayne began to talk about finding ways to step outside their grief, show their appreciation to the military community, and keep the memory of their son alive. Gradually, a grand idea took shape, one which would focus on a happy event and provide the opportunity to pay it forward to those currently in uniform.
Soon their idea became reality: They created a nonprofit charity appropriately named “Operation Happily Ever After” which will provide a military dream beach wedding for a lucky military couple. Drawing on their experience as wedding photographers and their contacts with other wedding professionals, Angie began contacting local vendors, asking them to donate their time and skills & professional services for this worthy cause. The Egglestons were amazed at the generous and enthusiastic response they received. With the exception of transportation to and from the Grand Strand, everything will be provided, including the wedding ceremony, a reception with all the trimmings, luxury beachfront resort accommodations for the wedding party, and a three-night honeymoon stay, custom designed wedding bands, formal wear and even a beautiful gown. At the same time, Operation Happily Ever After will raise funds and awareness to help support the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a non-profit organization which assists military members and their families suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and traumatic stress as a result of deployment to war zones.
For the Egglestons, life will always have a bittersweet edge. Nothing can ever change that. However, by holding on to one another and moving beyond personal pain, Angie and Wayne have created a living tribute to their son which will provide a dream come true for one special couple and lend assistance to countless members of the military community which was there for them in their darkest hour. The Operation Happily Ever After logo aptly symbolizes each of these: military dog tags on a metal chain intertwined with a pair of wedding rings, one bearing the discreet engraved initials of their beloved son Chris.
To learn more about the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, go to www.fallenheroesfund.org