By Kayla Blair
Five years ago, in an entirely different lifetime, before the Marines, before the goodbyes, I lined the streets of Morris in near-freezing weather, waiting for the troops of the local National Guard to return from their deployment.
In my head I knew that what I was experiencing was something that was truly incredible, although I didn't really know why or experience the full effect of it. I knew a couple of the people who had been with this group of soldiers. Not real well, but I still knew who they were. But yet, when I lined the street that day, I hadn't yet learned what it all meant to so many others. I only went because I supported the troops and wanted to show that, even though it only consisted of standing on a crowded street where it is likely that none of them would even notice I was there.
Until today, I didn't realize how much being a military girifriend, fiance or wife for three years would change me. But it did. A lot.
Now, five years later, I lined the streets of Marshall waiting for a bus load of troops for their local National Guard to return from their deployment. I knew none of these troops. Not one. Yet, when I went out there and stood on the side of the street, something came over me. I finally realized how much this really meant. My eyes uncontrollably filled with tears. I didn't even realize I was crying at first, nor did I know why. But they continued to pour down.
After all of the excitement was over and I went back inside to my job, I thought about why it was that I was so emotional over people I had never met before. At first, I thought that it was because I was being selfish: Here was a busload of troops returning, and my Marine wasn't with them. He is still in Afghanistan. Away from me. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what came over me wasn't a sense of sadness or jealousy for the fact that my Marine wasn't returning, but more a sense of empathy for the wives and families of those who were returning.
I felt for the wives who had been away from their husbands for so long and were now, for the first time in a year, going to see them. It turns out that I do know these people. Although not personally, I know what they felt when they had to say goodbye a year ago. I know what they were feeling last night while trying to sleep, knowing that they couldn't because they were too excited for tomorrow to be here. I know what they were feeling while I was standing there on the side of the street watching the buses pull through. I know because I felt it, too. I felt the excitement in my heart for them because I have been the one waiting. I am the one waiting. And that excitement that I felt for them and shared with them overwhelmed my heart and resulted in an outpouring of tears for them. For my happiness for them. A feeling I think only a military wife could know. But a feeling that every military wife shares and has in common.
I will be heading home to Morris, and tomorrow another busload of troops will return there, and people will be lining the streets for them once again. And again, I will be one of those people, although lost in the crowd. Only this time, I will know what is significant about the events that are happening because I will know what it's like to live it. I am living it. This is my life. And again, just like today, my heart will be overwhelmed with happiness for them. As I will be sharing in their excitement and anticipation, just like every other woman on the street who has ever been a military wife will. It's a bond we all share, and a feeling one cannot forget.
Kayla (Gausman) Blair is from Morris and a student at Southwest Minnesota State, in Marshall. She and her husband, Steven Blair, were married last year and Steven currently is serving in Afghanistan.