Free Dresses for Military Brides

The Brides Across America organization and a Fort Worth bridal store are helping dozens of military brides-to-be from North Texas.

Most of the brides, both servicewomen and fiancées of servicemen, already have their rings and wedding dates, but until this week didn't have a dress.

The Brides Across America organization has given away more than 6,000 wedding dresses over the last few years. This week Bliss Bridal Salon along with 809 Vickery and others will give away 50 dresses donated by designers.

And while most of the brides scheduled their appointment weeks ago, that wasn't the case for Fort Worth native Charli Santifort.

"Right after we got engaged, he goes, 'I have one more present for you, your dress is for free.' And I go, 'what?'" said Santifort.

And that proposal happened less than two days after the Fourth of July holiday.

"He proposed on a ship in Boston Harbor on the Fourth of July," said Santifort. "I was standing there looking at the skyline with his mom and all of a sudden I hear, 'excuse me ladies and gentlemen.' And I turn around and he's in his full uniform and I instantly start crying and after that it was all a blur. But he got down on one knee and after that everyone on the ship said, 'hip hip hooray', three times."

Santifort's future husband is a captain in the U.S. Air Force and is based in Boston. While the wedding won't happen for another year, after she finishes up school she's already got one of the most important things she'll need.

"It's been less than 48 hours and I already have a dress," said the Fort Worth native.

Many of the brides who showed up just south of downtown drove for hours to get one of the dresses valued between $500 and $5,000. And while the brides were certainly grateful, so too were the folks at Bliss Bridal that they could help young military families.

"Anything to give them that little piece of home back, that normalcy back, they really latch on to that and they really appreciate it," said Wendy Holsonback. "I think the most memorable thing we've seen so far, especially with the service members, is when the brides look down at the dress and they tear up and say, 'I never thought I'd get one.'"

But just a few days following the Fourth of July, those newly and not so newly engaged can be appreciated and honored once again for their family's sacrifice.

"It's really amazing, especially since he is going back to Iraq for a second tour, to be able to have this kind of thank you to the troops is wonderful," said Santifort, who plans to say "I do" in North Texas.

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