Edwin McCain performs at Port Royal military wedding

rlurye@islandpacket.comMay 17, 2014 

Standing in the rain outside an Edwin McCain concert last year, Leroy Pennington had only one thought -- getting backstage so the hit singer-songwriter could record a message for his daughter, 21, and future son-in-law, 22.

The Beaufort resident wanted to share McCain's best wishes at the couple's wedding, which marked the end of a two-year, long distance relationship. The couple, both members of the Air Force, were stationed at bases more than 1,200 miles apart.

On Saturday, the day of the wedding, Pennington didn't need the recording anymore.

McCain was at AMVETS Post 70 in Port Royal to congratulate Alicia and Eric Wilson himself.

"I was trying to surprise my daugther (with the recording), but she turned around and surprised me," Pennington told the guests.

The couple beat out hundreds of others for the prize of a wedding performance by McCain after sharing their love story online through a photograph-based contest, sponsored by Belk.

In their entry picture, the uniformed couple embraces on their last day together at technical school, where they met. Below was a quote.

Distance means so little when someone means so much.

They were words Alicia and Eric lived by, save for a few rare visits each year, until the couple reunited Thursday.

A few short days later, they sat under a canopy of orange and pink ribbons, singing along to McCain's "I'll Be."

They bowed their heads together to laugh and croon the last few words.

"We're excited just to see each other and then it's like, oh, we're getting married!," Alicia said. "It's been hard but when we see each other, it just makes it that much more special."

McCain, a South Carolina native, said he has performed countless weddings and recorded just as many messages for fans.

But even before Saturday, the Wilsons were a little different, he said. When Pennington realized his video had malfunctioned last year, the determined father returned backstage and asked McCain to do it again.

"I loved that you came back," McCain said before performing the father-daughter dance song. "You'd do anything for your daughter."

After the wedding, and a road-trip honeymoon to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, the couple will have a few months before Eric deploys to Afghanistan. This time, Alicia will likely join him in a few months.

Eric Wilson said it will be even harder to say good-bye this time.

But holding his bride outside Post 70, he didn't dwell on that for long.

"[Today] was more than we could ever have expected it to be."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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