If you've driven along Mount Pleasant Road in the past few weeks, you probably know Marq Robinson is home.
Early this month, a big white banner with red and blue trim appeared at Mount Pleasant and Barrier Store roads. It read, "Welcome Home Marq Robinson."
I guess it doesn't take much to pique my interest, so I set out to learn who Marq Robinson is and why someone was so glad he's home.
Thankfully, around here somebody always knows somebody. I was soon talking with Amy Barrier, who put up the sign. Marq Robinson is her boyfriend, and he returned from Iraq Feb. 5.
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Formerly in the Marines, Marq is now in the National Guard. He's been away from home for 14 months. He reported for training in Mississippi in December 2008. Last April he was deployed to Iraq.
I talked with Amy about how difficult it is to be separated from someone you love for long periods.
She said they were fortunate that Marq works in information technology, so he had access to the Internet. They could communicate by instant message and e-mail.
Marq could occasionally call home on a satellite phone, but Amy couldn't call him; she had to wait for him to call her. They also used Web cameras, so at Christmas Marq watched Amy and her boys open presents.
Amy said she's thankful for the technology, which let her communicate with Marq much more often than she would have by letter.
To celebrate Marq's homecoming, Amy didn't stop at signs along the road. She planned a surprise cookout with friends and family, including many who came from out of town.
Now that he's here, he can't be recalled for 24 months. He'll spend it getting more education in his field at a local community college. Amy said they try not to think about future deployments, but Marq has committed to six more years with the National Guard, so it's likely he'll be sent overseas again.
Amy said her biggest adjustment to Marq's being home is remembering he's available to help. She got used to doing everything herself for her two sons. She said it's nice to have an extra set of hands around to throw a ball or drive someone to practice.
As we chatted, Amy said that in the past, she hadn't thought much about military families in our area. But once Marq was deployed, she began to notice the yellow ribbons people put up for their loved ones.
I realized that I do the same thing: rarely stopping to wonder which of my neighbors has a loved one serving our country.
I'm glad Amy put up her banner. It gives us all a chance to welcome Marq Robinson home, and it's a reminder to be thankful for everyone who is still away from home.