My name is Dawn, married to my husband John for almost 16 years.We have 4 kiddos,Austin (14),Katelyn(12),Meghan(9) & Madelyn(4).We are an Army family so I guess that makes my kids Army brats since its the only life they've ever known.We've moved around more times than I can count on both hands & lived in Texas, New York, North Carolina, Louisiana & currently back in New York & going through a deployment as well. The challenges that come with the military life are huge but has also provided tons of opportunities we probably wouldn't have had otherwise. Our kids won't ever have a childhood home to return to or go to the same school for longer than 3-4 years,they won't have that one best friend, they know what sacrifice is & are wise beyond their years at times, but they are proud Americans & that is enough for them.
How long have you been a military family? He has almost 19 years of service In the Army,but as a family, 16 years
How many deployments? Second,but first with kids. First was to Bosnia & current is to Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom
How did you prepare for this recent deployment? Him, you, kids, household? We didn't have much time to prepare for this deployment as he was basically thrown into a new unit just about a month before the deployment started,so really it was just a "in shock,go through the motions" type thing
How are you able to keep in touch? We are able to Skype pretty regularly,which helps immensely with the separation
What types of things have you been able to send him to keep in touch and send a little bit of home? I send care packages every week with his favorite foods,snacks etc that he isn't able to get over there & include the kids in on any special occasions/holidays to put in pictures,school programs,report cards & hand drawn pictures/letters
Can you share some of the fun things you do? Right after he left I bought a world map & taped it to our kitchen wall,then I printed out pictures of the kids & one of daddy and glued them onto both locations, just so they can kind of understand where he is & it has also increased their knowledge of not only the U.S states but the other countries, plus it makes for a great conversation piece for anyone who comes over. I also put a clock above it with his time zone so they can always know what time it is there,it really helps them to stay connected,by knowing when he is sleeping,eating dinner etc. We also have daddy dolls which is basically a stuffed "person" with a plastic piece on the face so you can insert your own picture into it,he comes with us to the park,out to eat,bedtime.It has really helped my 4 year old.
How do you discuss it with your children? I keep it as simple as possible & only if they ask questions first.
How does it affect your kids each differently? It has been the hardest on our youngest,she was very much a daddy's girl & him leaving,tore her world apart. Even tho we are halfway through this deployment there are still nights of inconsolable crying from her,which just means extra snuggles that we both need.
How do you keep it together during such a trying time? One day at a time. I know that sounds so cliché but its the only way honestly.If you focus on the length of the separation you will get overwhelmed very quickly. With that said,i am still overwhelmed on a daily basis & there are times when I just have to lock myself in my room for a few minutes to re-group.
What kind of support is offered for military families during deployment? Every unit has an FRG (family readiness group) that is designed to keep family members up to date on their Soldier & activities we can participate in. Another wonderful support is the USO,which is a non profit organization that offers so many programs to not only Soldiers,but their families as well, from offering free lunch,ice cream socials to breakfast for deployed troops who wouldn't get breakfast otherwise. They also offer a United Through Reading program in which the deployed Service member can read a story to his/her child while being videoed & is then able to send the video and the book home to the child so they can always hear a story from daddy/mommy.
What can the average person do to help support? Honestly, just being there for a friend/family member associated with the military. Don't assume because they aren't crying every time you see them,or asking for help all the time that they don't need it. We,along with our Soldier,have been taught to "suck it up & move on"... Supporting a USO would be awesome as all the donations go right back to the Soldier's & their families & without such donations,they would not be possible. Above all,support the men & women who put their life on the line 24/7, 365 so that we can be free.
Thank you so much Dawn! Thank you to John! Thank you to your children!
Can't wait to hear when he'll be back in all your arms safe & sound!
"It is the love of country that has lighted and that keeps glowing the holy fire of patriotism." ~J. Horace McFarland