This time it’s different.
My dad was deployed once before — back when I was in fifth grade. It was right in the thick of Operation Iraqi Freedom. At the time, I wasn’t too concerned. Sure, it sucked that my dad was away. It sucked that he missed my birthday, missed Christmas. My biggest concern at the time was how he wouldn’t be there the weekends I came to visit my soon-to-be stepmom and stepbrother. I barely ever got to speak to him — that was mostly over the Internet, and I didn’t know how to use it yet. I was, at the time, shrouded in a mist of ignorant bliss. I was 10 years old. I had no idea what was really going on, why my dad was away, what it all meant. But this time, I’m older. Wiser. Definitely more tech-savvy.
And that makes this deployment that much harder.
What I thought was months has now turned to days. I was confident that I had all the time in the world left with my dad before he left, but before I knew it, it’s come right around the corner. The countdown has begun and realization is only slowly sinking in. He’s leaving. He will be gone for a year, possibly longer.
He doesn’t talk much about it. I can’t disclose much about where he’s going or what he’ll be doing — but to be honest, I don’t even really know much about it anyway. The only details I’ve gotten so far have been from my stepmom, Lisa.
That’s another thing that’s different — Lisa.
Now that I’m older, she confides more in me. We’re definitely closer than when I was in elementary school. But she doesn’t hide it anymore — how scared she is. And that scares me.
With everything that’s been going on in the news with ISIS, it’s terrifying to think that my dad will be out there. And I have to admit, when it comes to that kind of stuff, I’m woefully uninformed. I tend to shy away from news reports on what is happening in that part of the world. Now that I am older, I understand it more. It’s so much more real than before. I don’t know what’s better: keeping up with what’s happening, or pretending like it isn’t happening at all.
A part of me doesn’t want to know. I think it would be worse. Harder to cope with his being gone. Infinitely more stressed about all the “what-if’s” and “what-could’s.”
Next year I plan to move back home instead of staying on campus. I tell people it’s because it’s too expensive, or that I just wasn’t able to find a new apartment, but that is not true. In reality, I’m moving back home to help out around the house. My little brother and sister definitely were not a part of the equation during my dad’s first deployment. My stepmom needs help watching the kids when she’s at work, and more than that, she needs someone to be with her at night, after the kids are asleep, and she starts to worry. Moral support — she needs it, I need it, and moving back home will allow both of us to have that. The rest of our family is in Toledo, so we only have each other close.
So will the 30 minute commute be rough? Sure. Will balancing class, extracurriculars, watching my siblings and working to pay my own school bills be rough? Sure. It will be one heck of a senior year, but what I’ve learned is that family comes first, and I need to be home.
The hardest part of it all, though, is how much more dependent I am on my father now than when I was before. After the drama of high school and my rocky transition to college, my dad’s become my rock. I call him almost every day, every time I’m stressed out. He’s there. Sure, I’ll still be able to talk to him, but it will not be as often. He will not be able to be there every time that I need him.
So maybe I sound like I’m whining. I know that I am not the only person in the world who has a loved one out defending our country. But I am very proud of my father. I am proud of everything he has done to protect us and keep our country safe. I have so much respect for everything that the military does, for all the veterans that have dedicated themselves to that cause. But let’s also not forget their families. The fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and spouses that hold down the home front. They make sacrifices, too.