The first time Teresa Perrera saw Eric Unger, she followed him down the beach in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Teresa, then a junior at Towson University, was on a spring-break trip that had turned out to be pretty soggy. She and a girlfriend were suntanning on the beach on "the first decent day we'd had," she recalls, when Eric and one of his friends walked by.
The two women got up and began following the men, waiting to be noticed. When Eric, then a junior at Northwestern University in Chicago, and his buddy didn't take the bait, Teresa and her friend headed back to their spot on the sand -- only to realize that now the men were following them.
Introductions were made all around and the new acquaintances spent the rest of the week together. It was fun, but no romance sparked, Teresa quickly points out.
She returned to Maryland and Eric returned to Chicago -- though he did drive out a weekend later to see Baltimore. The visit cemented their friendship. Involved in other relationships, Teresa and Eric kept in touch for years through sporadic telephone calls. After he was commissioned in the United States Air Force, Eric did manage to see Teresa twice when he was traveling through this area.
But it wasn't until one of those spur-of-the-moment calls -- seven years after they first met -- that they decided to spent another week together. At his suggestion, she went to visit him in Los Angeles, where he was stationed.
"I sort of felt like I was struck by lightning when she came out there," Eric remembers. "I said, 'Why aren't we dating?' and she said, 'Because you live too far away.' And I said, 'I can fix that.' "
Teresa, who works for Agora Publishing Co. in Baltimore, visited L.A. once more before Eric started petitioning the Air Force to transfer him to duty at the Pentagon. He moved to Silver Spring in December 1996 and proposed in April 1997.
On this June 6 -- Eric's 30th birthday -- Teresa, 29, pledged to follow Eric for the rest of her life. He plans to remain in the Air Force and though they don't expect to have to relocate for another few years, Teresa says she will go willingly as a supportive Air Force wife.
As her parents, Frank and Dorothy Bucharewicz of Kingsville, and his parents, Jerry and Carol Unger of Rogers, Ark., and 108 guests looked on, Teresa walked to the end of the long aisle at Saint Michael Lutheran Church in Perry Hall, where Eric stood waiting in his dress blue uniform.
A soloist sang "Wither Thou Goeth" and Teresa's aunt, Barbara Beverungen, read from the Song of Solomon: "Arise my love, my fair one, and come away!"
After they took their vows and shared their first kiss as husband and wife, Teresa and Eric headed back down the aisle where a formal Air Force Saber Detail waited. Three servicemen flanked each side of the aisle, their sabers raised and crossed in an arch. The couple slipped underneath until Eric's good friend, Maj. Anthony Cerveney, brought his sword down and blocked their way.
"The price of passage is a kiss," Tony intoned. After Teresa and Eric shared another long kiss, the major raised his sword.
As Teresa passed in front of him, she braced herself. Tony -- acting in accordance with long-standing Air Force tradition -- swatted her gently on the backside with the saber.
"Welcome to the Air Force, Mrs. Unger," he said, smiling.
Arm in arm with her new husband, the new bride giggled and glided out of the church to start her new life.
Pub Date: 6/14/98