VISALIA, California, July 4, 2010 — -- Kenneth Mitchell is a patriotic man.
"My grandfather was a World War II vet, and I looked up to him quite a bit," Mitchell said. "He was a very good man, and so I went to go join the military."
Aside from serving as a staff sergeant in the Army, nothing says America like meeting the love of your life at an Applebee's restaurant.
It was a cold night in January 2009 when Mitchell, 25, walked up to the bar in Visalia, Calif., 40 miles southeast of Fresno. This would be his last night in Visalia before heading to the Mojave Desert for 30 days of infantry training and then eventually his tour overseas.
But something changed that night for Mitchell. He met Malori Williamson, 23, who was working as a bartender.
"He walked in, and from that day forward, we were stuck on each other," Williamson said.
Mitchell left the next day for training, but they continued to talk and make frequent trips to see each other.
In June of last year, Mitchell learned he would be deployed to Afghanistan. The two bought engagement rings -- his made of strong titanium to wear while at war. Williamson also learned that she was expecting a baby.
Mitchell was able to get a short leave back to America in February to witness the birth of his baby girl, Skyree.
Weeks passed with Mitchell in Afghanistan. Williamson was packing up the couple's belongings and getting ready to move into their new home near Ft. Lewis in Washington state.
In April, she got the call she had always dreaded: Her fiancé was badly injured in a roadside bomb attack. He was pulled from the wreckage; legs shattered and badly burned.
"You never expect it. Through the whole year I was pretty worried," Williamson said. "We kept telling each other ... we're finally going to be together again."
A week later, Mitchell was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Williamson went to be by his side.
It was there that first lady Michelle Obama visited Mitchell and held their baby girl. Mitchell was badly burned on his arms and legs, and he had plates and pins inserted in an attempt to save part of a leg before the knee. There's still a possibility he could lose part of a leg below the knee. He is in a wheelchair.
"Me and my grandfather both have Purple Hearts," Mitchell said. "I wish he was here to see that I earned my Purple Heart as well."
When Mitchell found out he would be on leave during his recovery, he thought it would be the perfect time to marry Williamson. The couple picked July 4 for their wedding day.
"I'm a very patriotic person ... and I knew that I was going to get to be home around that time, and I told her, 'Why would that not be a great day to get married? It's our favorite holiday,'" Mitchell said.
Today, Williamson will walk down the aisle of their backyard wedding in California to marry her "hero."
Mitchell will be waiting for her in his wheelchair, wearing his dress uniform, complete with four combat stripes.
"Now I get to make it legal and make sure she's mine." Mitchell said. "I'm just going to be sitting up there and thinking I'm so lucky to have such a beautiful and wonderful woman in my life."
It wasn't the scenario either one of them imagined the night they met. But today as the country pauses to celebrate its independence, Mitchell and Williamson will celebrate both their love for each other and their country.
Mitchell hopes to walk again and says he wishes to remain in active service.
"I still have a job that I have to do," he said. "I still have a calling if they do call me to go out."