As I prepare to celebrate Memorial Day, I am once again reminded of what an honor it is to help those who risk their lives in service of our country. People like U.S. Naval officer Lt. Cecily Ripley.
Cecily was in a flight training program when she took a vacation to St. Maarten and met the love of her life, Carla Francisco, at a hangout popular with locals. They began a long-distance relationship after Cecily returned to the U.S. “We took time to get to know each other. I went to the Caribbean a lot. Every time wasn’t perfect. But…you just never give up,” said Cecily. “We just grew into each other,” added Carla.
They wanted to be together, but because Carla had overstayed her prior admission to the U. S. when she was a teenager, she needed a waiver to return to the country. At the same time, the couple couldn’t marry in St. Maarten because that nation does not recognize marriage equality. With few other options, Cecily and Carla married by proxy.
As an added pressure, Cecily was waiting for her active duty deployment orders and knew she would be sent overseas soon. The couple reached out to Immigration Equality for help. I stepped in to expedite the approval of their waiver and their spousal petition. We advocated for them both with the Departments of State and Homeland Security, and with Cecily’s member of Congress.
Recently, we learned that the waiver and petition had been approved. Today, the couple lives in Florida near Cecily’s naval base.
“We’ve been apart so long, we’re trying to do so much right now because we know I’m going back to sea in a few months,” said Cecily. Together, they are raising Cecily’s two young children and are planning to grow their family in the near future. “We have my two sons… we hope to have a child together as well.”
“Thank you for all your help. It was amazing to get a lot of help… what you’re doing is awesome. Thank you very much Immigration Equality!”
This weekend, we celebrate Lieutenant Ripley, her family, and all of our service members and veterans.
Client Programs Director, Immigration Equality