One of the many advantages qualities about working in a school district in an area with three major military bases is the high number of military dependents we serve. Many of these children have or had one or both parents deployed overseas or stationed at a base away from where they are living at some point in their young lives.
Being a both a former military “brat” and spouse myself, I can sympathize with them. Hub had to serve a year remote in Korea and I stayed stateside while he was on tour; while I was growing up, Da’s military assignment required him to be gone a lot of the time. Both experiences give me some insight into what my students are dealing with.
There is one young lady that I have taken under my wing this year. It wasn’t intentional. She just sidled up beside me during one of the days I was subbing in as VP and started chattering excitedly that her mom was coming home for a 3-day furlough from her deployment. She & I have had several conversations since then. I usually see her in the halls during passing periods and I make sure to say hello each time.
Both mom & dad are active duty. Mom’s currently deployed and dad is stateside. Mom’s due to retire in July, but because of the nature of her job and the rotation of the troops, she won’t be able to officially retire until August when her squadron is scheduled to return home.
My heart goes out to this young lady. She always has a smile on her face and, even when she’s having a hard time missing her mom … like now during the holidays … she exudes positivity. When she told me yesterday how much longer her mom is deployed, I just wanted to grab her and hold her and tell her everything will be alright, that Mom will be home soon. I wanted to hold her not because she was crying, but because I was. On the inside.
Because in that moment I flashed back to another time and another group of children with parents deployed during the holidays.
I worked for a small radio station in northern California during Operation Desert Storm. I remember the frantic and often hysterical phone calls from listeners the day that President Bush (the elder) announced that U.S. forces had launched its attack. I remember entering the Sunday School class that first weekend after Desert Storm began and looking into the terrified eyes of my 5th graders because so many of their daddies had just been deployed to the “Desert.” I remember that we didn’t go over the lesson I had planned, but pulled out the globe and talked about where their dads were and how scared each of my students were that dad wouldn’t come home.
I remember my friend recounting the tale of her husband coming home from Desert Storm on Christmas Eve and how the two of them kept it a secret from their children I remember her telling me how she managed to “wrap dad up” in an old refrigerator box and about how, once their son had finally opened the box where daddy was wrapped, that he screamed hysterically that he was so very happy that he got his daddy for Christmas!
I want so very badly for this young lady to have a happy Christmas. I would dearly love for her to be able to wake up Christmas morning and have her mom waiting for her in their living room.
I don’t think history will repeat itself this year. I’m thankful that I can be here during the school day for this young lady and I do hope she has a wonderful holiday with her dad and her extended family.
If you have the opportunity, please make the time to share yourself with the child of a deployed soldier or airman this holiday. You’ll be glad you did.