Conquering challenges in service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Heather Rodgers
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs
I am an American Airman, I am a mother and I am wife to an Airman. Our mission is to Fly, Fight and Win, but life as a military spouse can be challenging at times - extended work days, working weekends and holidays and of course deployments. Any of these can occur with no notice, and as the spouse you have to adapt and overcome. Well, what if your spouse is also an Airman? Family separation is never easy.

Although my husband and I went through our first deployments together, we were worlds apart. He was sent to Iraq for six months, while I spent four in Kuwait. From this first deployment, I learned immediately the work it takes for families during all phases of the deployment: preparation, activation and reintegration.

Just shy of a year after he returned from his first deployment, my husband was tasked with another and was only given three weeks' notice. This time was different for me, not only was I staying behind, but we had also learned two weeks prior that we were expecting our first child. Pregnancy, especially your first is not something you want to do alone, and we were stationed almost 3,000 miles from my family.

This is when the Air Force's Wingman Program became a huge part of my life. Being pregnant sometimes makes certain tasks around the house difficult to do. Despite my husband's seven to eight month absence, due to deployment as well as training, things still needed to be done. I enlisted the help of my fellow Airmen. One particularly helpful Airman was Senior Airman James Lowe, who is currently assigned to the 9th Intelligence Squadron, Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

"Having your husband deploy while you are in the middle of a pregnancy is stressful enough," Airman Lowe, told me. "If I could even help out a little bit in order to ease that stress, then I will gladly jump at the opportunity."

He and a few other Airmen from the 9IS donated their time to help me around the house and with yard work.

It was tough trying to prepare for a baby while we were so far apart. I wanted my husband to be included every step of the way. During the first listening of the baby's heartbeat I was on the phone with my husband. We timed it right so he would call while I was at the doctor's office and he could listen to the heartbeat too.

The reception was bad and interfered with the sonogram device. The call dropped several times, but we managed to get everything positioned right so he could hear. We went back and forth with names through emails and rare phone calls for months. Luckily, it was easier to pick out the bedroom theme; sports of course, for our little boy. Just imagine how long the planning and preparing would have taken without modern technology.

My husband returned from his deployment just in the nick of time. Before he could finish his reconstitution time we had our baby. If you think reintegration after a deployment is rough, try doing that as you are learning to be a parent for the first time.

This put a lot of stress on our marriage. After being apart for so long we had become two independent individuals. We needed to get used to each other once again. Throw a baby into the mix, with sleepless nights and added responsibilities, things changed.

Military service is difficult, especially deployments. Those months were among the most stressful times of my life, and my marriage. I will never forget the hardships we faced, but I don't regret my choice to enlist or marry another Airman. Military service affects every aspect of a servicemember's life and sometimes creates situations that are not ideal for new families, but that is a challenge we face to be part of something larger than ourselves. If I had the chance to do things again, there are things I would change, but my military service is not one of them.

As an American Airman, I will never leave an Airman behind. I will never falter, and I will not fail.