War leaves emptiness in hearts and homes

By Gail Katherine Ziegler
April 27, 2006


This was not the first time that Janet and Scott had been apart for a length of time. When they were engaged he was deployed to South Korea for 13 months. But this time was different. When Scott was at Camp Shelby preparing for Iraq, Janet was pregnant.

When Janet went into labor, Austin refused to wait. He was born at 8:51 P.M. on Feb. 16, 2005 and Scott arrived home at 2 A.M. the next day. Scott was allowed four days home for the birth of his son.

Austin didn’t see his dad again until June 5, 2005 when Scott had a 10-day leave before being sent to Kuwait on the way to Iraq. Recently, the family was able to spend almost three weeks together over Austin’s first birthday.

This is not one family’s story but the story of deployed parents, husbands and wives. About 39 percent, more than 469,999, of the children of deployed parents are age 1 or under, according to www.research.vt.edu. The site also pointed out that today “military service includes higher operation tempo, increased deployments, relocations and family separations.”

A life in the military is more than just numbers. Janet said, “Scott missed his first steps, his first words, all the major changes a baby goes through in the first year.” Scott is still present in Austin’s life. When Scott was last home, he picked out a shirt for his son that read, “My dad rocks,” which Austin wears to school.

Armyfrg.org has a handbook for deployment that states the stages of separation as denial, anger, guilt, depression and acceptance. The site said, “Knowing these feelings are normal can help families cope.”

The holidays are particularly challenging. Janet said, I usually want to just be alone, but my family always wants to ‘cheer me up,’ plus I always have to remember that Austin still needs the experiences.”

Janet gets support mostly from her family but also from the Family Readiness Group. She said, “It helps [Austin] a lot to be around family and usually it helps me also.” The Family Readiness Group is an organization that provides “an avenue of mutual support and assistance,” according to myarmylifetoo.com. She said, “We organize activities and events to help keep the families busy to keep their minds off of things.” The group fundraises to help for things that the soldiers need.

Janet also meets with a wife’s support group that gets together every two weeks. She said they “talk about things that are going on in our lives.” She has made friends with one wife in particular that she talks with when having a bad day.

“People tell me all the time that I am living the life of a single mother and I can see how they think that, but I am lucky that it is only temporary.” Janet said that the hard part of Scott being away is that though they are married, she tries not to lean on him too much because of the things that he is going through.

Armyfrg.org reminds military families that a returning soldier has been subject to rigid routine and “schedules and preplanned events may not be a good idea upon his/her return.” The site also warns that spouses may have trouble sleeping and that it could take time to reestablish sexual intimacy.

To manage separation armyfrg.org recommends “taking good care of yourself.” This includes eating right, getting rest and taking time for physical exercise. They also encourage contacting family, friends and neighbors for practical or emotional support.

Janet still has to live her life at home. “It’s hard to deal with household things that come up. Recently I had a dryer that broke and had to make a decision about fixing it or buying a new one,” she said. This was a decision that they would have made together.

See www.myarmylifetoo.com for more information and support for army families.

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Gail Katherine Ziegler

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