Saying goodbye

Abbey Brown

Nicole Kjelland has already picked out the colors for her wedding — burgundy and silver. A lot of the planning has already been done, and getting the dress is her next step. Everything is in line for a perfect wedding.

Everything but a guarantee that the groom will be there.

Kjelland, a Purdue University senior, is hoping her fiance, Versailles senior Stephen Martin, will be home in time for their Dec. 27 wedding.

Martin, along with a number of other Western students, was deployed to Ft. Campbell today. Their work orders are for a year — it could be shorter or longer, and they have no idea where they’re going.

“I’m definitely feeling the sadness of leaving,” Martin said. “But also a lot of excitement for the experience of going overseas.”

There was a sendoff celebration at the Glasgow Army National Guard Sunday afternoon. The armory gymnasium seats were packed, the stairs were lined with family members and friends, and the floor was covered with folding chairs. This still wasn’t enough room for those who wanted to show their support for the soldiers of the 1st Battalion 623rd unit — people crowded the hallway entrances trying to get a look at what was going on.

Posters showing support for the soldiers plastered the gym walls. “We’re proud of you.” “Freedom isn’t free.” “The 623rd means duty, honor and freedom.”

As the ceremony began, the soldiers stood at attention, some with stern faces, others smiling or becoming teary-eyed when they caught the eye of a loved one. Video cameras were rolling and cameras were flashing as family and friends were trying to get a lasting image of their son, father, brother, husband or friend before they were deployed.

Col. Lt. Ron Turner said during the sendoff ceremony that the soldiers are ready to take place in a mission directly related to the defense of “this great nation.”

Each of the soldiers’ names were read aloud. Throughout the crowd, tissues could be spotted dotting eyes and noses.

A soldier holding a machine gun lead those carrying in the flags. He kissed his wedding ring while the names were being called. Later during the service his wife joined him, and he put his arm around her — almost like he didn’t want to let her go.

Glasgow sophomore Larry Martin had a number of family members present at the sendoff ceremony, some in the audience and some standing with him among the soldiers being deployed.

“I am concerned all the male figures are going to be gone in case they need anything,” he said.

Glasgow sophomore Alex Sewell said he is looking forward to the honor associated with serving his country.

“It is well worth leaving my life behind to protect the lives of others, myself and the future of my family and loved ones,” he said.

For Kjelland, the hardest part about being separated from her fiance, Martin, will be not getting the reassurance and strength he brings to their relationship. And she would miss the kisses, she said, pecking him on the check.

The two were high school sweethearts and have been dating on and off for the past five years.

“What’s gotten me to this point is talking about the future, planning for what’s to come,” she said, holding Martin’s hand and smiling at him.

Reach Abbey Brown at [email protected].