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Stories from frontline families

Your stories about you or a loved one's military service - yesterday, today, or tomorrow  - and how this has affected your family, your life, and your town. 
Members Of Third Infantry Division Deploy To Iraq
Family members look on as the Third Infantry Division deploys to Iraq in January.Stephen Morton / Getty Images

Your Assignment: Frontline families.  Are you or a loved one serving in the Military?  Was the training appropriate for the tour of duty - too little, too harsh, just right? How is your local community responding to the war effort?  How does this military service affect your family?

Your Reports:

Overflowing pride      
My husband (CW2 Robert J King) is with the 101st Airborne Division based out of Fort Campbell, Ky.  He is stationed at Camp Spiecher. This is his second tour of duty to Iraq. …I'm proud to be married to some one who defends his country willingly. I am proud that he made this a career choice. The Army takes a lot of getting used to but there are so many programs available at Army Installations to help families of deployed soldiers. These programs help families cope with long-term separations. I know from personal experience that it is very hard to be soldier's wife. It has its rewards and down falls but some people don't look at that aspect of military life, it's always the bad things that the media always hears about.

As a wife and a mother of two, deployment can be a very trying time. We get by at first, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day then week-by-week by then it all becomes a blur of passed time. Before my children and I know it (by keeping a positive attitude and ourselves busy) my husband will be home again. My children love their "Daddy"; I love him not just as a husband but also as a soldier who has a job to do. I love him for the values he carries with him. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and the Personal Courage he carries with him that spills over to each and every one of his soldiers. The same compassion and understanding he shows his family back home. For my husband, his Unit has become his family while he is deployed. I love him with all my heart and I am very proud of him.
--Karen King  

Three-year-old son of a soldier
Editor's note: The author was at Fort Campbell, Ky., in late October when the following happened. Her daughter is a Blackhawk helicopter pilot with the 101st Airborne Division:


My three-year old grandson bolted out of his bed, his hands stretched up to grab around the silhouetted figure in the hallway. I couldn't move fast enough to restrain him, but the kind woman gave my little grandson a hug anyway.

"Mommy? My mommy?" 

He saw the figure, the outline of the hair, but not the face.  His mommy, as we all knew, was still in Iraq and wouldn't be home until January.  I gently pulled him from the woman's legs where he was holding on and still saying, "Mommy." The woman thought he was being friendly; I knew he believed for one heart-shattering moment that his mommy had finally come home. 

My tears flowed as I placed him back in bed and comforted him. He could not tell me of his terrible disappointment, his confusion, his sorrow.  Instead, I soothed him with "Sweetheart, Mommy is still far, far away.  She is still flying helicopters. She'll be home in many, many days."  How do you draw "many, many days"?  How do you draw "far, far way" to a three year old?  How do you explain war? Danger? Insurgents? People who are determined to kill her because she is a soldier?

He got up and walked into the living room where his father slept on the couch, and crawled under the covers.  I went to my bedroom, and through half the night, sobbed because I hurt for him, this little three-year old son of a soldier.
--Margo Ungricht, Lehi, Utah

Hard times, but proud times
I have just finished reading some of the postings about Frontline Families. My family also is one of these "Frontline Families" and has been for the past 5 years. My brother was in the Army for four years and was deployed multiple times. Those four years were some of the hardest times of my life, but also some of the proudest. Like so many others, he also was critically wounded, but God chose to spare his life and my family is so thankful. It angers me when I go to the mall or just out in general and hear people cutting down this great country and our President and troops overseas. How dare they stay in their comfort zones and be critical of the very people who are protecting them! Even though my brother is out of the Army now, he is now serving as a police officer in Ohio and will always be proud of his time spent serving his country and his president.

The other member of my family that is still in the military is my brother-in-law. He is serving in the Marine Reserves and will be deploying again very soon. He will leave behind my sister and their three precious children. This will not be his first deployment and probably not his last. However, you will not hear him complain, as he would have it no other way. My sister is extremely proud of her husband, as is the rest of my family. We count it a privilege to support him and all of our other troops that protect our country both here at home and overseas. Please remember both the men and women that serve, and yes it is a SERVICE, to protect us and also their families. Sometimes I think the families are the forgotten heroes at times. I challenge you to do a random act of kindness for someone who you know has a loved one serving. Mow their lawn, bake them cookies, or simply say thank you and offer them your support. Freedom isn't free and should not be taken lightly. Our President is doing his best at running this country...ask yourself if you would like to be in his shoes for a day. I for one would not, but I will do everything to support him, especially pray for him and his family. So, from one proud college aged American I salute our men and women serving, and am praying for them AND their families.
--JoEllen Smith, Altamonte Springs Fla.

Small town family
I have no biological family serving our great country at this moment, but the small town of 1,500 people that I come from has at least 25 of it's hometown best protecting us each and everyday. The spirit and support of our community to the families of those serving is overwhelming. I am very proud of all who are serving, either in Iraq or elsewhere. We all should be. A special thank you to them all, especially my best friend, SPF Jason Boe, who is about to return to Afghanistan for a second tour. God bless you and keep you safe, come home to us soon. You and all the rest of our nations heroes.
--Julie Myrstol, Big Timber, Montana

Staying strong important
My father was in Kuwait when the war started in 2003. He is now back to Iraq for his second tour. Every day, I watch my mother doing her best to keep busy to get through the day. Because of her, I was able to understand what it would be like to be an Army wife. My fiancé is also deployed and it has been a challenge every day and every moment that he's been gone. I can't pick up the phone to call. I can't be comforted in person when I'm having a bad day. I always wish he was there for the silliest moments to the worst. I have to do everything by myself. There's not a day that goes by without wonder or fear of what might come. I would never recommend this lifestyle to all women/men. You'd have to be strong for yourself AND your significant other. You have to be able to get through being alone for most of the year, sometimes with little contact. It's a tough role, but in the end, I feel it's all worth it. Best of all, I am very proud of them. I hope the year goes by quick, so they can all come home safely. Until then, it will always remain a challenge.
--Marisa, Fort Stewart, Ga.

Taking comfort from family support
Stationed here in Baghdad, Iraq, it is interesting to see the perspectives in the other blogs that reflect care and concern for loved ones that are over here. The best thing my family does for me over here is stay strong. It is comforting to know that they are able to take care of the homefront and maintain the status quo despite the sacrifice of departure.
--S. Smith, Baghdad, Iraq

Focusing on confidence
I guess every generation has its big war. My grandfather fought in WWI, dad was in WWII, I did Vietnam and now my sons have been in Iraq. When I was a boy I was proud of dad and grandpa. I thought war was heroic, like in the movies. When my time came, I was naturally nervous about my own survival, but I felt that I was in control to at least some extent, so fear did not overcome me. When my sons went to war it was different. Maybe it was the parental urge to protect, but whatever it was, I worried more about my boys than I did about myself when in 'Nam. It was a sense of powerlessness. I was affected greatly by news coverage from Iraq, first claiming that we failed to initiate the invasion prior to the spring dust storms (we "waited too long") and the follow-up stories about sandstorms affecting our invasion. Later, when it became politically chic to argue that we rushed into the war, the "sandstorm" stories conveniently vanished, to be replaced by car bombings. My sons came home. Their stories from Iraq were largely at odds with the news coverage, but I do not want to get into that discussion. The important thing is that my sons felt in control of their future, just as I did when I served and I guess my dad and grandpa did when they served. When I change focus from my sense of powerlessness to a confidence in my sons, it helps get through the tough times when they are in harm's way. My job is to make sure I support the troops, and trust in God. Maybe this will help some of you who also feel that same sense of anguish or inability to protect our servicemen and women.
--Mark Menser, Ft. Myers, Fla.

Feeling caged
I am one of the lucky ones in that my entire family is military. My father, sister, brother and husband are all serving, all in different branches. We cover the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps. As someone who has been part of a military family for all of her 26 years, I can tell you that I have never seen communities react the way they are now. For the most part it's good toward the troops deployed, but negative towards the government and the fact we are over there and negative about joining our military.

My brother is "over there" and my husband is currently assigned to recruiting. So I get to see the major differences in opinion. Since we are living off of, and far from, a military installation, this has been a major adjustment for us.

The majority of civilians, when seeing my family out and about, if my husband is in uniform, do one thing: stare. That's it. They say nothing, but literally stop in their tracks to stare at us. I have yet to decide if I want them to say anything, as I am not at all sure that whatever comes from their mouths will be good. I even had one lady do this to my poor husband while we were picking our son up from school. Unable to move the car, because she had stepped directly in front of it to gawk at my husband in his uniform, I got a good look at the emotions playing across her face. They ranged from surprise, to curiosity, to anger.  I had to wonder what she had to be angry about?

Occasionally though, we will have someone stop us to say thank you. Which is kind, but embarrassing, and can become a pain when we have our three small children and are just trying to get out of the grocery store. But it is nice know there are people out there, not in the military, who understand that right now, military families have it the hardest. None of us consider the pay worth the sacrifice, but someone has to do this. Or where would we be? What would our country be named? We don't want the negative comments, or even really the positive, we just want to know that you’re trying to understand. Even though we know you can't possibly.

From the recruiting area, the majority opinions are as such "Thank you for serving, but you can't have my son/daughter.” Even as they say they appreciate the protection our troops provide, they make it clear that someone else can protect them, because they will not allow one of their own family members to do so. Or, in their words, "I won't join under this president." It's a contradiction so great, even I can't really understand it. My husband comes home each night with numerous stories of parents and even the kids themselves yelling -- sometimes even cussing -- at him because he called their number. People have a "You leave us alone, we leave you alone" attitude. This is how our community reacts. They either want nothing to do with the military or look at us as though we are monkeys in a cage.

We have decided neither to agree nor disagree with our community. We keep to ourselves, waiting for the day when we will be back on a military post with other people who understand us and what we are going through as a military family. We wait for my brother to return, dread another "Your brother was wounded" phone call, and live the same way we did prior to the war. The war has only changed one major thing for us; before, people didn't even notice us. Now, we are circus animals.
--Danica Love, Baytown, Texas

Ever-present fear
My Husband is in the Army National Guard and I am in the active Air Force.  For hundreds of years, the spouses of our soldiers bear the ultimate sacrifice.  For the ones who stay behind live within a continual fear.  To speak against Enduring Freedom is to speak ill against your spouse.  We live in a state of fear within our military housing; not wishing to discuss it with other families for fear we maybe looked upon as weak and un-supportive to our soldiers. The fear I refer to is the fear of the infamous sedan vehicle slowly driving down your street, looking for its next family.  The notification can be anything from severe illness or injury.  The final notification usually does not come within the sedan, it arrives via a larger vehicle, that is the Killed in Action Notification. 

It is the plague as it drives down the street, mothers and fathers quickly gather their children to swiftly hide them safely within closed doors.  No laughter can be heard for hours afterward, only the wails from the family that received the notification.  A lone telephone rings as word starts to spread down the street, a continual reminder that it could have been your family.  Our vacant eyes, blank stares and the false smiles and the lost true laughter plague the spouse and children.  One learns to lie very well during this time of deployment, looking at others with our false smiles only to say we are fine.  One learns to cry silently, we find the bath or shower will hide our swollen eyes and runny noses.  We lie to our children when our soldiers leave and while they are gone to quell their fears during the day and to drive away the nightmares at night. 

I pray every night while I light my candle for my spouse.  Praying that if the Goddess wishes to take him, make it painless and quick.  I pray that if he is injured, I beg to the Goddess to give me strength to care for him.  I pray to the Goddess to allow my children the opportunity to show their father what they can become as they grow older. 
--Sgt. Dobney, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Staying strong
My nephew has been over to Iraq twice, and is currently back and is due to get out of the Marines in October, 2005.  For those of you who have doubts, fears, and are in anguish over having a loved one serving, all of these things are natural for you to have. However, keep in mind, no in your heart, the love and the conviction each of you have. For these will weather the worse of storms, these will give to whom you have over seas more strength, and most of all hope. Have no doubts, just move and keep moving forward in those convictions.  Best Regards, wishes, love, and for a speedy return to all the hero's who are and have sacrificed.
--John C., San Francisco, Calif.

Family stress
Deployments like this change the soldier in ways that are both positive and negative.  It also changes their loved ones. In this war it's not just the soldier physically in danger, it's also the dangers of families falling apart because the long deployments become too hard.  It's little children not seeing a parent for a long period of time, and not only does that soldier have to adapt to living back with a family, the differences between war and their homes, but often a child who at best is skittish at who that parent is suppose to be. I make no excuses.  Ask most military deployed or still here at home, and they will tell you they are sworn to their duty.  They evaluated the risks and took them based on love, support and honor. My husband is a soldier, in the Army to be exact.  He is on a long deployment.  I do not worry that he will come home, because I do not have control over his destiny.  I focus instead on keeping the children positive, and trying to keep myself very busy. As an Army wife I have a tough job.  I have to believe in a military system right now, that is governed by someone in which I do not believe in.  This all boils down to faith, faith in God, faith in my soldier, and faith in the soldiers who have sworn to help protect each other. I am proud of every member of our service, but my hats off to all spouses and children who are adjusting with out their soldiers.
--Jeanine L., Fort Stewart, Ga.

A large hole in our lives
My husband, the father of our daughter is currently serving in Iraq. He left our lives in July of 2004. This has left a large hole in our lives. My daughter is handicapped and I have had to stop working to be able to take care of her alone. I don't regret being with her but I do regret that her father is not here when his only child is growing up with out him. Bush tells the country that family values and morals are up most in his agenda. I don't see it. My community seems to support the military efforts. But they don't seem to support the families left behind by this deployment. I sound like I am complaining a lot and maybe I am. But right now my husband does not know when or if he will be coming home. I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel and with every day I grow more tired. I love and support my husband in everything he does and I always will. I love my country and hope for the best outcome.
--W.L. Tolman,  Lewiston, Idaho

An emotional unknown
I had to write this to try to vent my feelings after had just talked to my son In Iraq.   The feelings of having  a son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, father, mother, boyfriend, girlfriend or any other loved one in a strange land unknown to you bring feelings you never felt before. The days of worrying from the time you wake up till the time you go to bed. The crying everyday, not knowing, not seeing, not touching, not being able to pick up the phone and call them to make sure they're OK, to tell them how your day went. But when you finally hear there voice and hearing how tired they are, having so much to say but wanting to listen  and listen so intently to grasp all you can cause you know soon their time will be up and will have to say "good-bye" the most hated word since they left. You can't be selfish because the person behind them is ready to hear there voice from home.
--Danny Bates, Sanger, Texas

A different perspective
I don't have a solder or a Marine with the troops, but I have my whole family in the war zone. I'm originally from Iraq and my family is still there. I share one thing with the military families, the worries and the fear of waking up one day to the news that one of my family member has been hurt. Every military family has one or at the most two serving in Iraq but I have my whole family there. I go to bed every night praying that their night will be safe and wake up the next morning praying that they will live through that day. Sometimes I feel like it's a nightmare that never ends. I don't see any light at the end of this tunnel. The only thing that keep me sane for now is my faith and prayers.
--Basha'er, Plainfield, Ind.

Weighing heavily
My husband is a police officer the Washington, D.C. suburbs.  He was an active duty Marine when I met him and has recently been called up from the Marine Reserves to go to Iraq.  Beyond the sadness and frustration this causes, in our house this is a source of conflict.  I was against his resigning with the Reserves because we have 2 very small children.  On top of that, I don't particularly support this war. However, he feels that this mission is important, especially his mission, which is to train Iraqi police so that the country can become self sufficient.  In addition, he feels a special sense of duty that I think no one else in this country, myself included, could possibly understand: Months before the 9/11 attacks, one of the hijackers had the audacity to call the police because he was robbed.  My husband was the responding officer.  He actually had the man who would later fly a plane into the Pentagon in his cruiser.  This happened to be one of the hijackers labeled by Newsweek as "The hijackers we should have caught".  My husband runs a check on everyone he comes into contact with.  If the system had worked like it should have, there would have been a flag and this man may have been stopped.  But it didn't and he wasn't, and I think this strange coincidence haunts my husband still.  I believe that he feels like he must make up for a missed opportunity to dramatically help this country.  I can respect that but I'm not sure I can understand it or support it.  Given our disagreement about this cause and the choices he made to involve himself in it, I'm terrified that when he returns our marriage will be strained. 
--Saleena, Virginia

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