I recently asked Heather Forsgren Weaver, a colleague of mine at American Forces Press Service, to be a regular contributor to Family Matters. Heather has been heavily involved in this blog from the start. She edits, helps write and posts content on a daily basis.
In this blog, Heather writes about gaining a true understanding of the challenges military families face when a loved one is deployed.
May 19, 2010
Blogger Gains New Understanding of Deployments’ Challenges
By Heather Forsgren Weaver
I have been around the military my entire life. I grew up in the shadow of a major Air Force base. My brother went to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and was commissioned an officer in the Naval Reserves. I not only worked asÂ a Capitol Hill staffer during the Persian Gulf War, but as a reporter I was among those evacuated from Capitol Hill on 9/11. And, for the last several months, I have worked as a contractor for the Department of Defense.
But, until very recently I didn’t truly understand the toll military service –especially after nearly a decade of war — can take on a servicemember’s family.
Two meaningful events opened my eyes.
First, a very good friend of mine was recently deployed to Afghanistan. I am even better friends with his wife and adore his kids. I have admired my friendâ€™s wife because she seems to take in stride all of the things about military life that would drive the rest of us crazy â€“ the frequent moves and the changes that go with them, and unexpected temporary duty assignments that take her husband away from home, to name two. At first, when her husband got his deployment orders, she seemed to take that in stride as well; the rest of us were going crazy with worry. But later I noticed little things she would say that finally made me realize that she, too, was very worried.
Don’t get me wrong, she is very proud of her husband’s service and she knows he is where is supposed to be, but this deployment is hard on her and her kids.
I learned a second lesson from a family I didn’t even know while I was on vacation. In fact, I met the Iraq veteran and his son for only a few minutes while standing in line at Disney World. The little boy, about six or seven, was cute so I asked where he was from.
“Virginia,” he replied.
“So am I,” I said.
“We live near Williamsburg,” the boy’s father replied.
“He just got back from Iraq. He was gone a REALLY long time,” the boy chimed up.
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation exactly, but I remember that the little boy reminded me at least twice more that his Dad had been gone a really long time.
I remember feeling so fortunate that this father and son had some time to be together in the “Happiest Place on Earth.” I remember that the father told me that he felt he had missed a lot of important stuff while being deployed and that he didn’t want to miss anything else. He seemed conflicted about his recent decision to leave military service, but he told me he was doing so because he wanted to be near his son.
As it came time to board the ride, I thanked the father for his service. It seemed like a platitude.
How could I truly express my gratitude for a father who was willing to serve his country even when his son missed him so much? And then, when I think that you could multiply that by all of the families out there with deployed servicemembers, either former or current, I am speechless.
It may have taken me a long time to express this to all of the military families out there, but: THANK YOU!