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If they weren’t so humble, active-duty Army Capts. Natalie and Ed Mallue could serve as the face of a major beer label’s advertising campaign and be dubbed “The Most Interesting Couple in the World.”
They graduated from the grueling U.S. Military Academy. They conquered Ranger school, the Army’s toughest feat of human physical and mental endurance. They returned recently from South Africa where they served as military advisers for a major on-location Hollywood movie production.
And they made headlines when former President Barack Obama called them to apologize for disrupting their wedding in Hawaii.
The Mallues are a dynamic duo who have been “stationed” at Arizona State University since the summer of 2017, with Natalie pursuing a master’s degree with ASU’s School of Sustainability and Ed serving as an assistant professor of military science with Army ROTC. They represent the vast diversity and talent found within the ASU community and stand as a physical reminder of why the university organizes Salute to Service each year to recognize those who have served.
Salute to Service, which begins Monday, is a weeklong celebration that includes military-appreciation athletic events (including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' Flag Football Tournament), performances, panel discussions and activities sponsored by student clubs.
“I think it’s great for ASU to do Salute to Service,” Ed said about recognizing the relatively few people who have worn the military uniform. “Less than 1 percent can actually serve. It’s a pretty small population of the United States.”
Celebrating service also plays another important role. It helps narrow the widening civil-military divide, Natalie said. More and more of those who are joining the military are coming from military families.
“There is definitely a problem with now creating a separate class of military members among society; that’s a huge issue I see in the future,” Natalie said. “When you have universities or communities attempting to get people mingling together, I think it’s a great thing.”
While here, the Mallues have seized the opportunity to mentor military students and, in the case of Natalie, dispel military myths among her civilian graduate-school peers.
“It’s been really nice to talk with my classmates … many of them have had no contact with military people,” Natalie said. “I consider myself an ambassador to the Army, because there are a lot of people that come into grad school with preconceived notions.”
Natalie has shattered some of the more inaccurate notions, including a popular one that military members are “war-hungry, hard conservatives.”
“There are multiple people that I’ve run into that really thought I was going to be like that,” said Natalie, who grew up near Portland, Oregon. “I feel like I’m a pretty typical person. I may have achieved some cool things, but there are plenty of other people out there just like me (in the military). You find the broad spectrum of experiences, backgrounds, political beliefs, religious beliefs.
“You find a diverse set of people. We are not all one mold.”
One of the coolest achievements for Natalie and Ed was having their wedding at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in 2014, which included that timely phone call from the former president.
The couple scheduled their special day on the Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course’s scenic 16th hole in December, known to be the time of the year when the president typically flew in to play. They knew it was a gamble, but like good soldiers, they pressed on with the mission. They even tried to coordinate with the White House by sending the president a letter to inform him of the impending nuptials.
“It was an invite, but it was also like, ‘Hey, we’re getting married on this golf course, so probably not a great time to play golf,’” Natalie joked. “It was a little more tactful than that, and it also included an invitation.”
On their way to the rehearsal dinner the day before, it happened. Golf course staff called and delivered the bad news. The wedding location needed to change because the president would indeed be golfing the next day. Security reasons prohibited anyone not affiliated with the president’s entourage from being on the golf course.
“I didn’t take to that information too well,” said New Jersey native Ed, who initially wanted to personally call the president to complain but soon regained his composure. “So we’re like, ‘All right, we’re going to have to put in some hasty planning and figure out a new solution.’”
Fortunately for the Mallues, their wedding planner saved the day. She found a better location on a bluff above their original spot, which was quieter and had an even more astonishing view. The golf course refunded their money, and they still held a beautiful reception nearby in the backyard of the Marine Corps base commander’s house.
Shortly after the wedding ceremony, in the middle of taking pictures, the unexpected phone call came.
“I had my phone in my pocket, and it kept vibrating; it wouldn’t stop,” Ed said. “I picked it up, and it was the White House press secretary and he said, ‘Hey, I have President Obama next to me and he would like to speak with you.’ Who says no to that, so I said, ‘OK, put him on.’”
They put the president on speaker, and some in the wedding party videotaped the lively conversation. News outlets got wind of the event and produced stories using the two-minute video clip.
“He apologized; he felt really bad,” Ed said. “He would have adjusted his plans if he would have known. I felt like that was extremely nice and genuine. It made our day.”
More recently, the Army engineers had another encounter with fame. Actress Milla Jovovich invited Natalie, a 2017 Ranger School graduate, to work as a military consultant during the filming of a new movie in Cape Town, South Africa. Natalie and Jovovich had worked previously to develop the movie’s characters. Because Army force-protection rules prohibit soldiers from traveling alone to certain locations, Ed had the opportunity to accompany his wife on the just over two-week trip.
“What an experience being on set,” Ed said. “We were linked in with the stunt team, which is a lot of fun. We talked directly with the director … and then they offered us a part in the movie. So we got to act a little bit.”
Natalie and Ed played the small role of Marine pilots, who unfortunately die in the movie. Ed is not sure if their scenes will survive the movie’s editing process.
The Mallues' next adventure comes after Natalie graduates from ASU in 2019. They will return to the place where their military life started, West Point. Natalie will teach geography to the Army’s future leaders, and Ed will hold a senior staff position. Meanwhile, they will be missed.
“The Sun Devil Battalion is fortunate to have a great Army couple like Capts. Ed and Natalie Mallue,” said Lt. Col. James Sink, professor of military science for ASU Army ROTC. “They are great leaders for the Army, awesome role models for our cadets, and have made a lasting impact on our program.”
For now the Mallues are enjoying and appreciating the remainder of their time in Tempe.
“It's been really nice,” Natalie said. “It's really good for a person to step outside the military bubble for a little bit every now and then if you have the opportunity.”
In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran.