Three Generations of Military Officers Married on New Year’s Eve

| December 3, 2016 | 0 Comments
Lieutenant James Reily married Michelle Muniz on New Year's Eve 2015.

Lieutenant James Reily married Michelle Muniz on New Year’s Eve 2015.

First Lieutenant James Reily, Army Air Corps, spent 12 months in a German Prisoner of War (POW) Camp after being shot down and captured, returning from a bombing run over Austria. He almost died on several occasions but fate intervened. When General George C. Patton liberated the camp in the summer of 1945 he asked what the emaciated Reily wanted to do next? Reily replied, he wanted “to fight the Japanese in the Pacific.” His country obliged and he was on his way to do just that when he met “the love of his life” at a bar in Philadelphia.

First Lieutenant Reily, a New Jersey native, piled into a car with several of his buddies and set out to enjoy a furlough in Philadelphia before they set out for a cross country trip for training in Texas. “I almost did not go out with my buddies that night. But we had one car between us, so I thought what the heck, may as well.”

Clare Long was enjoying an after work drink with a group of her girl friends from the Philadelphia Record. One of his buddies was talking with her girlfriend so James started talking with Clare. As the night wore on he convinced the perky blond to give him her phone number.

“When I gave him my phone number, I thought he would never call,” recalled Clare against the backdrop of streamers, horns and confetti at their 50th wedding anniversary. “But he called the next day. He told me he was on his way to Texas but asked if he could see me the next time he was home.” We wrote and he came home whenever he could. They married several months later on News Year’s Eve at St. Martin’s Church in Philadelphia.

In 1976 Lieutenant James D. Reily Jr., United States Navy, eldest son of James and Clare Reily met the love of his life, Ensign Patricia Wappel, at the Officers’ Club bar at Moffett Field Naval Air Station in Mountain View, California. After several months of dating they were forced to face the fact that they would soon be going their separate ways thanks to the needs of the Navy. They realized that they did not want to spend the rest of their lives without each other so several months later they too got married on New Year’s Eve.

“It is hard to forget your wedding anniversary when it is on New Year’s Eve,” The now retired Captain James Reily commented. “And New Year’s Eve was a time when our family and friends from the East Coast and elsewhere in the country could get away from work for a few days to join in the celebration.”

Thirty-eight years later another Lieutenant James Reily, eldest son of James and Patricia Reily, met the love of his life, Michelle Muniz Munoz, while stationed as a Coast Guard Search and Rescue pilot in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. “I did not carry on the family tradition of meeting my future spouse in a bar—we actually met on line—but we did decide to carry on the family tradition of getting married on New Year’s Eve. Like my Dad says—it’s hard to forget your anniversary when you get married on New Year’s Eve.”

The couple married December 31, 2015, on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico, and came home to San Diego several months later to renew their vows and celebrate with family and friends.

Three generations of Reily men—in uniform—were in attendance at the vow renewal and wedding celebration at James and Patricia’s historic home in Mission Hills. Captain James Reily managed to fit into his dress white uniform and the young Lieutenant James Reily looked dashing in his “choker whites” with the sun glinting off his golden wings. Lieutenant James Reily Sr. could not recall what had happened to his dress uniform but he still had his wings and looked uniform sharp in his leather flight jacket, and spit shined shoes.

Unfortunately Lieutenant Reily Sr.’s beloved bride Clare passed on in 2010. “She would have loved this,” James Sr. commented as he surveyed the assemblage of his children, grand children, great grand children, nieces and nephews gathered to celebrate on a typically splendid day in America’s Finest City. Clare’s diamond sparkled in the sun light as the youngest Lieutenant James Reily slipped a classic gold wedding band on the finger of his beloved. A tear rolled down the craggy cheek of Clare’s tough, fighter pilot as his grandson recited his vows. Indeed, “She would have loved this.”

Lieutenant James D. Reily Sr. passed on in July, 2016. This year only two generations of Reilys will celebrate their anniversaries (1st and 40th) on New Year’s Eve at the Reily’s historic home in Mission Hills. It would have been Clare and Jim’s 70th anniversary. But they will no doubt be there in spirit because they would have loved this.

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