Melissa knew Rhyon's voice before she knew his face. Introduced by a friend and cousin, the pair struck up an intimate long-distance phone relationship that lasted four years before their first in-person introduction. "During that time, we were each other's best friends," Melissa says now, "always there to talk to each other, console each other."
When a research internship brought Melissa within a few hundred miles of Rhyon's U.S. Marine Corps' base, the couple finally got to see each other consistently—and Rhyon got a chance to propose. "I instantly knew what he was going to do when he came in and asked if I wanted to go for a walk," Melissa insists of their sunset stroll along the beach. "He was shaking." A nervous Rhyon knelt near the water and popped the question.