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Serving their country is not an easy job for soldiers, but it’s also tough on the family members left behind.
Soldiers from the Campbellsville National Guard unit returned home Wednesday after completing a 10-month deployment in Jordan. According to Staff Sgt. Gary Scott with the Campbellsville unit, 15 soldiers from B-Battery 1/623rd Field Artillery were serving as part of a training mission. He said the local guardsmen trained Jordanian soldiers for missions they would perform in Afghanistan.
Scott said this mission was not the first for the local soldiers. He said some of them had previously been deployed, including in 2005, when the entire unit spent the year in Iraq. As for future deployments, Scott said there’s no way to tell what lies ahead.
“There’s nothing we’re aware of at this time, but there’s no way to tell about other deployments, and it could always change at any moment,” Scott said.
As they waited for their loved ones to return home at the Campbellsville National Guard Armory on Wednesday, relatives of some of the area soldiers shared their feelings about the absence of their loved one.
Angi May’s husband, Staff Sgt. Travis May, was among the soldiers returning home. While she said she knows he is doing his job, and she is proud of him, she is also looking forward to having him home. The couple has two young children, ages 6 and 9, and she said he missed a lot of activities while he was away.
“It’s hard with him being gone because you don’t have the dad here to do things, like sports, and there are a lot of things he misses out on,” May said.
Among those missed activities were a kindergarten graduation and first communion.
“There is pressure because you’re doing two roles as a parent,” she added.
May and the other families who have been left behind during the deployment were fortunate that they had technology to stay in touch with their soldiers, as well as the support of each other.
By using Skype, an online application that allowed soldiers and their families to communicate and see each other over the Internet, several family members said they talked to their soldiers almost daily.
“We talked at least weekly, and sometimes a few times a week,” May said. “We had better contact this time (second deployment) with iPads and Facetime, and we had a lot more chances to talk and to see each other face to face.”
The technology helped to bridge the gap and ease the emptiness left by the absence, but sometimes people need more personal interaction. That’s where the family members of the soldiers reached out and helped each other.
May said many of the families participated in a program known as the Family Readiness Group.
“We’re just a group of families, not necessarily spouses, but anybody with a soldier,” she said. “We are there throughout all the time, even when we don’t have a deployment. It’s just a way to get the families involved and to have a group to belong to.”
May is not only a member of the group, she is also now its leader. When her husband and other soldiers were away during a previous deployment, she said she was a co-leader. She learned then that it was a very beneficial program, and that it gave the families someone they could talk to and understand what they were experiencing.
While the soldiers are deployed, she said, the group’s members get together and they take part in activities like taking their children to the zoo, visiting a farm, meeting at Kid Wise, or just spending time together and talking.
“It gives you support, and you know what’s going on because you’re in their position,” she said of the shared relationship with other military families.
With her husband now at home, May said she and her children look forward to simple things, like just sitting together and spending time with Travis.
“We’re very proud of him and what he does. Without people like him who sacrifice their time, we would probably not be where we’re at now,” she said. “It’s hard for families, I’m not cut out for something like that, but he’s a whole lot stronger than I am.”
If there’s anything harder for a family than seeing a soldier leave to serve his country, it would be having him come home for a short time, and then having to leave again.
Becky Campbell experienced that in March. Her husband, 1st Sgt. Jeff Campbell, came home for two weeks when Becky’s mother passed away. He was allowed to stay for two weeks before returning to duty.
“I didn’t want to let him go back,” she said. “That was the hardest part. You get the routine back, and then he has to go back again.”
Karen Jones was waiting for her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Donald Jones, to get home, and she described herself as being like a kid at Christmas.
“I don’t think there’s been anything more exciting in my life,” she said. “It doesn’t get any easier to wait, and it’s been harder as it gets closer.”
Jones said she has had trouble sleeping because of the anticipation, and moments after her husband stepped off the bus in Campbellsville, she said their family was heading home to spend time together and enjoy a big meal.
“He’s really been wanting a big breakfast, so that’s what we’re gonna have,” she said.