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Friday, April 13, 2012
Monique Lamoureux-Kolls has No. 1 fan

By Joanne C. Gerstner

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- It's just one of those love stories that never gets old. Future Marine meets girl. Girl is destined to play hockey for the U.S. Olympic team. They fall in love, get married, but have long-distance relationship because of his service deployments.

For Team USA forward Monique Lamoureux-Kolls and her husband of nearly two years, Lance Corporal Taylor Kolls, the page has turned to a new, happy chapter at the IIHF World Hockey Championships.

Lamoureux-Kolls, who also plays for the University of North Dakota, doesn't need to worry about her husband being deployed to Afghanistan anymore. And he doesn't have to worry about her being upset or lonely because he's half a world away. Kolls is relaxed, even a bit contemplative, after finishing his four-year service commitment with the Marines. He left his base in Hawaii on April 9, without even packing up his stuff (a Marine buddy is taking care of that), and flew nearly 12 hours to get to Burlington to get to see his wife play.

Kolls was in the stands at Gutterson Fieldhouse, on the campus of the University of Vermont, watching his wife and her U.S. teammates crush Switzerland, 10-0, in the World Championship semifinals. Lamoureux-Kolls has seven goals and seven assists in four games to lead the tournament in scoring. The Americans, the three-time defending champs, will face Canada for the gold medal on Saturday.

"I know it sounds crazy, but this is the first international tournament I've ever gotten to see her in, I'm so excited and grateful to be here," said Kolls, 22, who still looks like a Marine with his closely cropped light brown hair. "She's been supporting me for so long while I have been gone, now it's my turn to be there for her. This is a whole new thing for both of us. It's something we've been waiting for a while."

Having her husband around is special for Lamoureux-Kolls too, even though it still seems a little strange. Kolls has been deployed for five to seven months at a time since he started in the service. The longest they've been together since he enlisted is five weeks, after he came home from Afghanistan in June 2010.

"This is only like the fifth game he's gotten to see me play in recent years," Lamoureux-Kolls said after registering a plus-1 in the game against the Swiss. "Being apart has totally sucked, so I'm really looking forward to having him around, having him home with me. It's time for us to build a normal life, or for whatever normal is like for a guy who is married to somebody like me."

Their relationship started in high school when his younger sister Madison, a hockey teammate of Lamoureux-Kolls', introduced them. Things intensified quickly, and he says he knew he wanted to marry her. But he also wanted to be a Marine, and she wanted to pursue college hockey and the national team.

They tried to split the difference, maintaining their relationship while pursuing their dreams. He enlisted in the Marines, training to become a machine gunner. She made the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic team. They thought about getting married before he deployed for Afghanistan in November 2009 but decided to wait for a summer wedding in 2010.

Soon, their worlds would be quite different. While she competed in her first Olympics, he faced tough conditions: no electricity or Internet combined with the very real danger of firefights and IEDs hidden in roads his platoon were patrolling.

Kolls had no idea what was going on in Vancouver. His way of sharing in her Olympic dream was wearing the official hat she sent him and carrying around an American flag he purchased in Afghanistan. Lamoureux-Kolls kept in touch with daily letters and weekly care packages. She was worried, checking the news to see if anything happened in Afghanistan.

His Marine buddies, as only Marines can do, razzed him for loving a hockey star. He laughs and rolls his eyes, admitting he was frequently called "Lamoureux," instead of his last name, by other Marines.

"I know they've given him a lot of crap because of me," Lamoureux-Kolls said. "He's taken a lot."

Kolls has since watched videos of her games on the Internet and knows what happened in Vancouver. But he still regrets not being able to share in the excitement of Team USA winning a silver medal. He's a big hockey fan, having played through high school. But there's no way to make up for lost time and missed memories like the Olympics, only the opportunity to create new shared experiences with his wife.

"Those are the things that we're not going to get back, and sometimes, that really does bum me out," Kolls said. "Because of that, I am so looking forward to the next Olympics (2014 in Sochi, Russia), like you wouldn't believe. If Monique is there, I am too for every second."

Kolls sees parallels between the service he's just completed and his emotions seeing his wife, live for the first time, in a Team USA jersey.

"I think it's even more meaningful than before for me to see her wearing the uniform of our country, because I know what that meant to me," Kolls said. "You don't realize what we have here in this country until you leave and experience something else. Women in Afghanistan will never have the chance to do something like this. Just having electricity, being safe, free, being able to enjoy watching women playing hockey for a world championship. … We all don't realize how lucky we are. We really are."

Lamoureux-Kolls is just happy to have Kolls back by her side, cheering her on. Their partnership, which has survived long separations, is finally whole.

"I don't need another coach or a strength coach, I've got those already," she said, adding a laugh. "All I need is for him to be him. We will go back to North Dakota, I'll go back to school, he'll start school and we'll live like a married couple. That sounds perfect to me."