FARGO, N.D. — June 28, 2010, will be a date Sgt. Martin “Tony” Simmons won’t soon forget. It’s the date he returned from a nearly yearlong deployment to Kosovo and the day his girlfriend agreed to be his wife.
Simmons landed at Fargo’s Hector International Airport at 6:03 p.m. yesterday after having spent the past year patrolling the Gjilan province of Kosovo as part of Kosovo Force 12. Stephanie Hope Springfield flew in just behind him, at 10:35 p.m., from her hometown of Cartersville, Ga.
He spent the four hours in between with his family before wandering around Hector with nervous excitement.
As soon as Springfield stepped out of the airport’s secured area, Simmons dropped to one knee and proposed. She said yes.
“I was trying to figure out why his whole family was here,” Springfield said afterward. She had expected Simmons’ parents, but not a half-dozen family members.
The couple met online a little more than a year ago when they were both playing World of Warcraft. They talked regularly over Skype while he was deployed, and now they have plans to move to Virginia for school. They’ll be making wedding plans, too.
Simmons credits Springfield with “how well she stuck together with me through the deployment,” and is anxious to spend more time with his bride-to-be in person.
Simmons was one of the early returnees from Kosovo, but had been attending a Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, so he arrived home later than the others who returned on May 14. The remaining 500 North Dakota Soldiers, who are part of a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, are expected home later this summer.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 600 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas. With a total force of about 4,400 Soldiers and Airmen, sufficient forces remain in the state for emergency response and homeland defense.