She was supposed to be in Germany, or so her mother thought. Instead, Samantha Meyer of Cottonwood showed up at home last week.
"It was about 5 or 5:30. I was in the kitchen making supper when there was a knock on the door," said Charisse Meyer, a Cottonwood resident and Samantha's mom. Samantha's best friend was at the door. "She said, 'I found something in Sioux Falls that I thought you might like.' And I just kind of looked at her, like, 'What could you have found in Sioux Falls?'"
"It was really interesting. I could see the look on her face," Samantha Meyer said. Of course, the "interesting" look on Charisse's face turned into hugs and maybe a few tears - Samantha was the surprise, home on leave from serving with the Appleton National Guard unit in Kuwait
Photos by Deb Gau
Above: Samantha Meyer, right came home to Cottonwood on leave as a surprise for her family, including her mother, Charisse Meyer.
Samantha is part of the Appleton National Guard unit currently deployed to Kuwait.
Samantha came home on Oct. 25 for about two weeks' leave. Although she had told Charisse she would probably be spending her leave in Germany, Samantha said she and her fiance Ben Schulte, who is also deployed with the Marshall Guard unit, had decided where to go based in part on when they could get leave.
"If we couldn't get leave at the same time, we decided we'd go home," Samantha Meyer said.
Schulte is still in Kuwait, she said.
"He's in convoy security," like Samantha is, she said. The couple have been lucky in that their assignments let them see each other relatively often. "We'll be at base at the same time."
Samantha Meyer said it was good to be with her family again, especially her daughter Natalie, 2. Natalie has been living with Charisse while her mom is overseas.
"Spending time with my daughter, that was my main focus," Samantha Meyer said. "I didn't want her to forget me."
But Natalie didn't forget. When Samantha arrived at home, Charisse Meyer said, "Natalie was kind of peeking out from around the door."
"It took her about five minutes," Samantha Meyer said, but Natalie was happy to have her back, too.
"That first night, she was kind of like, 'My mommy!' whenever (Samantha's) brother would get close," Charisse Meyer said. "She was very attached."
Samantha Meyer said she while she's been back, she's also done some odd jobs for her mom at work, and attended one of her brother Steven's high school football games.
Meyer even got the chance to go wedding dress shopping. She and Schulte plan to marry next fall.
It wasn't too hard to get back into civilian mode after driving convoy vehicles in Kuwait and Iraq, she said. Getting on the Interstate to drive home was probably the hardest part.
"I'm not used to having civilian vehicles anywhere near me," Meyer said - on convoy missions, civilian cars and trucks are a sign of danger.
The violence in Iraq is "not as bad as it's made out to be," Samantha Meyer said, but it's not a safe place, and there's still the risk of roadside bombs for the convoys. "And there is starting to be some political unrest now."
Samantha Meyer said her convoy missions are usually at night, and she sleeps through the day.
"Basically, I'm a vampire. I never see the sun," she said. Since it's day in Minnesota when it's night in Kuwait, she said hasn't had problems with jet lag on the trip home.
Samantha's Guard unit was deployed this spring, but she said it's still too soon to tell when local soldiers will be returning. That's one of the hard parts of deployment, she said - you never really know when you're coming home.
"It has to come down as an order," Samantha Meyer said.
Charisse Meyer said she supported Samantha's decision to go into the military.
"It's given her the opportunity to see so much," Charisse Meyer said. But it's still hard being separated. Saying goodbye to Samantha, even for things like basic training, is hard.
"It'll be tough," Charisse Meyer said, when Samantha has to leave this weekend. "I think Sunday will be tough for me."