Deployment: What 2012 Will Bring to a Military Wife, Family

Jackie and Brian marked the end of 2011 with a surprise reunion with his family prior to his expected fifth deployment in 2012.

I surprised my husband right after Christmas with an impromptu trip to New Jersey to see his family.  He was so excited, this trip was special to him, we were saying goodbye to 2011 and looking forward to 2012.

Unfortunately, 2012 holds deployments in our future, for both Brian and his twin.  Richie was flying home, to New Jersey, and Brian was excited to surprise him.

We started the almost 18 hour drive at 6 pm the day after Christmas, and were able to surprise Brian’s dad at his work close to lunch time on the 27th.  It was heart warming to see both girls run to their Grandfather, excitedly and jump into his arms.  I thought for a moment Big Rich would cry.  What an exciting thought it must have been for him, to have his entire family in one home before both of his children were to deploy.

Less than a year ago (March 2011), Brian was welcomed home from his fourth deployment by Jackie and his daughters

We surprised Brian’s brother at the airport, it was equally exciting as his pregnant wife was traveling with him, and our youngest daughter was meeting her for the first time.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I usually have my camera attached to my hand.  I was so disappointed when I realized I left my camera at home in all the excitement.  I remembered that my dear friend Alaina, an amazing photographer, had gone home for the holidays.  We were able to get pictures of all of us together, and start 2012 off with great memories for all the Dorr’s.

But what does 2012 have in store for us? Deployment, yes again, yes it does seem like he just came home doesn’t it? Brian has also decided to re-enlist, he has been in for 9 years, so he is still able to re-enlist without it being indefinite.  We are hoping we can re-enlist for our choice of duty station, fingers crossed.

I am so excited to start a new year, watch my children grow, welcome a new niece into the world, send my husband off and welcome him home from foreign lands.  What does 2012 have in store for you?

MacDill Enlisted Spouses Remember a “New Angel”

The quilt stitched for MacDill ESC member Lindsey Paxton.

During my membership of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, one of our young members, Lindsey Paxton, was diagnosed with brain cancer. We all felt we needed to do something, to let her know how affected we were and just how much we cared. We all gathered together (some of us crafty and some of us not so much) and began the task of making her a quilt. We accomplished that, with the help of many (including Bobbie O’Brien) and got it shipped out to her.

Lindsey was a young military wife, newly married to her husband Chance. She had her entire life ahead of her, and was stricken with such an awful disease. You would never know it. She remained upbeat and very inspirational.

Lindsey lost her battle to cancer this past Sunday, all the members that she touched were deeply hurt. She left behind her testimony on YouTube, and with that I firmly believe her legacy.

I will always remember her smile, and how a group of women gathered together in hopes of making something that would provide comfort during a long and strenuous battle.

Former College Student, Now Army Wife After 9/11: I Get It …

The Dorr family when Jackie's husband returned from his fourth deployment in their five years of marriage.

Today is September 11, 2011. Ten years ago I was standing in my dorm room at the University of Florida, getting ready for my first class of the day, with the Today Show on in the background. I watched in disbelief as the first plane flew into the first tower. Like many Americans my first reaction was to pick up the phone and call someone, I called my mom. She was equally as shocked. Then there it was, a second plane. It’s a day my children will learn about in history class years from now, much like Pearl Harbor Day, yet they will never grasp the immense devastation this nation felt.

My father was still active duty at the time, and my family lived on Keesler AFB, a mere six hour drive from UF. My brother was still in high school, and he described that September day to me once I came back for a visit. School buses were stopped at the gates in backed up traffic, students were being checked for ID cards. Armed airmen patrolled the neighborhood by foot, etc.

Knowing that war was inevitable, I had made a decision that I wouldn’t ever marry anyone in the military. The future was uncertain, but one thing I think most people knew was that this wouldn’t be a quick fight, it would last a while.

My husband enlisted into the delayed entry program in 2002, a few years before we met. So here I am in a life I swore I wouldn’t live, raising children with a soldier, realizing that it is mission first. Being around the military changes your perspective on things, and last night couldn’t make that more clear.

Last night was date night, so Brian took me to the movies. I got dressed up, as did he and we made our way to the now outrageously overpriced movie theater. We had already decided weeks ago that we wanted to see “warrior”.

The main character is a Marine, and we find out later in the movie he deserted his unit in Iraq after being the only survivor of a friendly fire attack. The actual movie was naturally more drawn out and much more dramatic than that tiny snippet but that part resonated in my head. When you hear deserter you get mad, one thinks of a coward, traitor…. Right?

Paisley Dorr holding her and her sister's Daddy Dolls as she waits for her Daddy to come home March 2011.

I felt for him, on the drive home Brian and I discussed it, we understood it, did we think it was okay? No, of course not, but we got it. It reminded me on some level of a time when Brian was heading back after his R & R and there was a soldier who was catching a flight, but was meant to catch one on the previous day. I struck up conversation with him, while we stood in line at security. His family clung to him, much like I was clinging to Brian. I asked why he had missed his flight the day before, and he began to tell me how it was intentional.

He had contemplated deserting, never returning, it was his fourth deployment and he was tired. His sense kicked in, realizing the punishment wouldn’t get him what he wanted either, which was to be with his family, watch his children grow, be with his wife day in and day out. I find myself wondering what happened to him, and remember the feeling of shock at the time as I heard his story, but now….. I get it.

Someday children will read about all of this in history books, much like I read about WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. However, history books can never capture the human life experience that is living it. A history book won’t make someone say “I get it…’

An Army Spouse on “Dusting Off My Perspective”

Anastin Dorr showing off one of Mom's hair ribbons.

I spent a good few hours this morning making ribbon and fabric rosettes for a headband for a dear friend of mines soon to be born daughter. I logged into Facebook to post the pictures for her, so I could pack them up for their long journey to Europe.

Just as I posted them to her profile, a title of a recent note she posted caught my eye, “New Perspective”. Hmmmm, I know she has had a high-risk pregnancy so I anticipated this had something to do with it, and clicked on the link to read her note:

“Just had my whole day put into perspective. As I was waddling down the hospital hall just a bit ago, I was about to open my mouth and complain about some minor pregnancy ache. I turned and looked right and saw a soldier still in ACU (Army Combat Uniform) pants fresh from the battlefield missing most of his right arm. He wasn’t complaining, or sad-looking. He was smiling and having a nice conversation with his nurse. I am gong to make it a point from here on out to live like that young man, to smile and laugh even when faced with hurt and sadness.”

Paisley Dorr wears a patriotic hair rosette for her father's homecoming in March.

My heart almost stopped beating, my eyes filled with tears. What a brief note yet so touching. While it does in fact give you a new perspective, it gives you insight into the daily life of military families and members. It got me to thinking of the many families who sent a loved one to war, not knowing what situation would return.

When I lived in Texas, the clinic I was assigned to was BAMC (Brooke Army Medical Center). BAMC is home to the burn unit, and is a stop that many wounded warriors make on their long road to recovery. I remember being sick with a cold wishing I would just die, as to not feel the misery that was the virus infecting my body, and it never failed I would have a wake up call much like my dear friends.

I would round a corner and see a young soldier (no more than 19 years of age) missing a leg and burned very badly. They never looked sad, more often than not they were joking with the hospital staff, that no doubt they know very well by the end of their stay. I always took it as God giving me a sign showing me to be appreciative, and that while even if it feels like the cards are stacked against you, you can always see the beauty in life.

Thank you dear friend, thank you for sprucing up my perspective.

Army Dad Works to Reconnect after Deployment

Exhausted after a day at play, Brian and his daughter Paisley.

I think my greatest fear about my husband’s redeployment earlier this year was how our young children would adjust to their father being in the home. They knew their Daddy, naturally, however they weren’t quite used to him being in our home.

Memories of his previous redeployment flashed in my head like a horrible nightmare I couldn’t wake from. Paisley, our oldest princess, wanted nothing to do with Brian.

That is putting it nicely, it wasn’t as though she just ignored him and gave him the silent treatment, it was more like she screamed at the sight of him. We had to bribe her with Goldfish crackers to go near him, and I couldn’t leave the room.

Needless to say, this caused stress and anxiety for all of us. With these less than sugarplum like visions dancing in my head, I braced myself for redeployment. I was so excited to have my husband coming home, yet so scared.

Well, with all of that said, the countless hours I spent worrying were wasted. Paisley clung to her Daddy instantly, and she talks his ear off, …”Daddy, do you like Mickey? I like Mickey…” “Daddy, I want Cheetos” “Daddy I wanna cuddle with you.”

Paisley, left, and Anastin, right, draw with chalk on the driveway with Dad.

Anastin, our youngest princess, took some time, but warmed up nicely.

Both girls love their father tremendously and show it in so many ways. Ana reaches out for Brian every time she sees him, “HA DA DA”, cuddling up on his chest and giving kisses. Paisley always wants to be with her Daddy and does everything with him.

I smile while doing the dishes, looking out watching Paisley and Brian walking our dog Holly. It makes me giggle to see Brian dress up in the finest of tiaras and have tea with our princesses. He takes every chance he can to soak in the time with his children, because inevitably he will deploy.

Dad takes his daughter, Paisley, for a kayak ride.

While deployments never seem to get easier for the aching heart, this last redeployment was such an improvement that it gives me hope for a close family again. For a while, I feared we would always have this rift caused by constant separation, constant training, constant deployments. I have hope that my daughters will forge strong bonds with their father, and will have close relationships through it all. I know that as long as Brian is a soldier, life will not be the cookie cutter model that the Cleavers taught us it could be, but rather we will make our own.

Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch: Bin Laden Is No More

It was a normal Sunday night in the Dorr household, the children were asleep, and after having spent quality time together, I headed to watch television in bed whilst Brian turned on his Xbox. I wasn’t watching for more than a few minutes when the announcement that President Obama was going to speak, unexpectedly, came through.

Earlier in the day, MacDill Air Force Base had gone to DEFCON BRAVO, and we were all wondering why. That question was answered with the exciting news that Osama Bin Laden was killed. Facebook erupted with statuses of elation, and I ran out to the living room to tell Brian (playing Xbox Live with his twin Richie).

Brian was ecstatic, after 10 years that terrorist was finally captured, and killed.  Brian and his brother enlisted after 9/11, because of 9/11  like so many other service members. 

Is it wrong to be happy someone is dead? I find this case to be an exception, this is a man who has to blood of thousands of Americans on his hands, I think it is okay this time.

Will this war be over? No, of course not, after all he was not the only terrorist out there, new leaders have emerged, and followers still fight (fighting dirty I might add). I pray that our deployed troops face no retaliation.

Keeping this as honest as I can, I will say I was annoyed at the posts indicating “Obama did what G.W. couldn’t!” Very untrue, without Bush having set all of this in motion, it would never have happened, and last time I checked Obama isn’t out there doing the gritty footwork that is our intel and military. Seems like the most erroneous statement, however, I look past it.

Other Facebook status’ claimed that the military deserve a raise, (this coming off the coattails of the recent government shutdown fear) . My comment on this is, it is sad that any military member could possibly qualify for WIC (federal food subsidies for low income pregnant Women, Infants and Children).

All “soap-boxing” aside, it’s true, Bin Laden exists no longer. Justice has been served. I think this has thrown lighter fluid on embers that were our nation and sparked a patriotic fire, it was what Americans needed to hear. God Bless America!

“My Daddy Come Home”

Friends help Jackie Dorr decorate the house for her husband's homecoming from his fouth deployment in their five years together.

I woke up thinking – it was finally happening. It was the day I get my family back!  My house buzzed with activity – all my friends and their children – as we did last minute cleaning preparing for my husband’s return.

Then came word, his last connection from Bangor, Maine was delayed. For a moment, it felt like it wasn’t going to happen.

As I did my hair and makeup, I couldn’t help but feel like it was my wedding day, and I was readying to see my groom.   We dressed the girls in their custom made dresses and their ruby red slippers, as Paisley calls them her “special come home Daddy shoes” and loaded up the car.

Paisley wanted to wear lipstick too for her Daddy's homecoming.

While everyone walked downstairs, I collected myself, and laid out the gifts I had gotten him to make up for missing Christmas, our anniversary and Valentines Day.  The whole drive to the compound, Krista calmed my nerves letting me know how amazingly happy she was for our family.

When we got to the compound, the bay was not quite ready but that didn’t matter, we would wait for hours if need be.  Paisley kicked off her shoes and ran around the CSD Bay, getting her little feet so dirty, but it didn’t matter she was excited and this made me happy.

Members of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club are known for their bright red shirts and for showing up for every homecoming not matter the time or number of returning troops.

Then 1600 came, and my phone rang. He had landed and they were getting on the buses heading to the compound.  It seemed unreal! “A bus just pulled up” Krista tells me.

We line up as close as we can, I can’t wait to see his face, and the thought of it brings tears to my eyes.  Paisley stands holding my hand, and then the door to the bay opens.  The silence is palpable as all the families stand waiting.  They march in one by one.  I kneel down next to Paisley and she sees him. “DADDY!! MY DADDY!! MAMA THAT’S MY DADDY!”

The Joint Communications Support Element, based at MacDill AFB.

The troops line up in formation, and we listen to first the 1Sgt and then Lt Col Burnham as they speak about their performance during this deployment, all the while Paisley stood confused.  She kept saying “Mama I want my Daddy”.  Then the words we waited for, he was released. 

I took off running towards where Brian was standing. He wasn’t there.  I turned and saw he ran around everyone the other direction towards us.  Paisley jumped into his arms “DADDY!!!”  Tears flowed down my cheeks as I watched my husband hold our oldest “princess. ” He kissed her and told her how much he missed her.

It didn't take long for Anastin, 8 months, to fall asleep in her Daddy's arms.

This was a stark difference to his last homecoming. Last time, she was terrified of him, this time she was so excited.  I was holding Anastin, and she was looking at Brian and Paisley, no doubt trying to figure it all out.  She turned 8 months this day, and for 7 months of her life her father has been gone.  I ask him if he wants to hold her, and warn him that she might cry as she has horrible separation anxiety.  He answers yes, and we swap children.

Anastin whimpered slightly but then was quiet. He kissed her and she took it all in.  Before we knew it, she had fallen asleep in her fathers arms.  Life is good, this is how it should be, a father holding his children.

Paisley has been attached to Brian’s hip since. He has been home, playing dress up and reading books.  She loves her Daddy and is enjoying having him home. 

SSG Brian Dorr plays with Paisley, his 2-year-old daughter, after returning from a seven-month deployment.

He has already returned to work, and at first she was upset by this, but he comes home for lunch and is home at night, which eases her concern.  We are taking life one step at a time, reintegration is never easy, and always comes with unique challenges.  A two year old can be overwhelming alone, but topped with an 8 month old with separation anxiety.  We take each day as it comes, and are all soaking in every second of having our family complete again.

You Know You Are a Military Spouse When …

Jackie Dorr with her daughters, Paisley and Anastin.

You know you’re a military spouse when: You’ve mowed more lawns than your husband because he’s never there to do it himself.

You use an “L” shaped flashlight with the red lens during power outages because it’s the only one you can ever find in the house.

You know that it’s normal to set fire to shoe polish or use a heat gun and that the best way to spit-shine boots is with cotton balls.

Your husband is a land nav expert, but takes a GPS for a trip to the mall.

You only write in pencil because EVERYTHING can and will change.

You need a translator to talk to your civilian friends, only because they have no idea what DFAS, AER, TDY, ACS, NPD, PCS, and ETS mean.*

You never put curtains up because by the time you do it is time to move.

You track time in duty stations and deployments, not years.

You know that “back home” doesn’t mean at the house you live in now, it refers to your last duty station.

You know that a two month separation IS short, no matter what your civilian friends say.

You know better than to go to the PX or commissary between 11:30 and 13:00, or on payday unless it’s a life or death emergency (seriously).

You know that any reference to “sand” or a “box” describes NTC at Ft. Irwin, Iraq, or Afghanistan, not your kid’s backyard toys.

You have a stock in flat rate shipping boxes, in varying sizes.

You don’t have to think about what time 21:30 is.

You’ve spent more time apart than you have together.

You’ve ever been referred to as “Household 6.”

You know his friends and people he works with only by their last names.

You stand for the National Anthem at a movie theater.

You carry shipping tape, sharpies, and customs forms (already filled out) in your vehicle.

It only costs you $30 to have a child.

You can spot a soldier in civilian clothes a mile away by their posture, haircut and that certain “air about them.”

You pick apart uniforms on TV and in the movies, even though you used to yell at your husband for doing the same thing.

You know your husbands SSN better than your phone number.

You have “we moved!” cards on hand.

You run for the phone,every time it rings.

You spell everything using the phonetic alphabet, Alpha, Bravo …

*DFAS – Defense Finance Accounting System; AER – Army Emergency Relief; TDY – Temporary Duty; ACS – Army Community Service (among others for ACS); NPE – Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (Fund); PCS – Permanent Change of Station; ETS – Estimated Time of Separation.

After reading several different blog entries on the theme – You Know You’re Military When … – I asked Jackie Dorr, President of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club, to write about her experiences. I invite any readers, military or civilian, to contribute their personal insights or spins such as – You Know You’re a Civilian When … – I look forward to reading your humorous, thoughtful and creative responses.

Bittersweet Goodbyes: “You Know How to Do This”

A father captures a few more moments with his twin toddlers before deploying.

A friend of mine, Rachel, asked me to take pictures of her husband leaving.  Her request was nice actually; she stated she knew it might be difficult for me emotionally as my husband is still gone.  I told her not to worry and that I would be happy to oblige.  I met them at the terminal on base early Sunday morning and started snapping away from the distance.  Catching pictures of them candidly.

Dale played with his twins, Jacob and Olivia, knowing that in 6 months they will have grown and changed so much.    It was interesting to watch the phases of a day as an “outsider” and not the one saying goodbye.  At first, they are okay. They both knew what was coming, but the two of them played with Jacob and Olivia to distract themselves and keep the babies happy.

As the time passed, I could see the pain settling in on both of their faces.  As I snapped pictures, tears flowed down my cheeks. I knew the pain they were feeling all too well.  This was a bittersweet moment; Dales group would be relieving my husband’s. So while goodbye is never easy, it means my husband is coming home soon.  Memories of saying goodbye to Brian welled up inside me.

A family holds on tight before having to let go.

Dale embraced Rachel as they both whispered to each other, kissed each other and kissed their beautiful children.  Dale wiped tears away from Rachel’s face and then away from his own.   In the same room, there was an airman telling her son that she wanted him to write her every day and have his Daddy mail it to her.  It seems unreal, parents having to say goodbye for extended periods of time.

“We need everyone in the terminal we are leaving in 5,” a voice said loudly.  Dale looked at Rachel gathered up his bags, he thanked us for coming and being with her, as he knew she needed it.  Then we walked to the other room.

They called names one by one (very different than Brian’s they left as a large group).  I took more pictures while they held each other, knots building in their stomachs, as it got closer to his spot in the alphabet.

I felt like I was almost intruding on such a personal moment, but knew they wanted these captured.  They cried, smiled, whispered and kissed softly soaking in every moment, knowing how long it will be till they can do this again.

They called his name, one final embrace and kiss and he walks away.

As I took pictures of him walking away from her, I knew how she felt. I remember it all to well, wanting to shout, “No don’t go! Don’t leave me here!” knowing that you can’t. I stepped up and held her, as she cried.It is funny my husband has left so many times and I still couldn’t tell you the right thing to say to someone as they watch their spouse leave.

I heard some whimpering from the stroller, and knelt down to see that it was Olivia. I thought to myself they are lucky and unlucky all at the same time. They are lucky that they have no idea what is going on, but that makes them unlucky as well.We walked out of the terminal to watch the buses take the troops to the plane, and waved goodbye as the four buses drove off.

I looked at Rachel and told her something a friend told me once “You know how to do this”.

Jackie Dorr is an Army spouse, mother of two, president of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and contributor to Off the Base.  Her other entries include:

Five Years, Two Kids and Four Deployments Later

“I Love You the Mostest!” an Army Spouse Goodbye

The Day I Saw My Future Husband Cry

Computer Kisses Keep Daddy Close

An Army Wife Thing: Giving Birth Over the Phone

 

A Reality Check – Fallen Heroes

Members of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club join service members and civilian staff to line the route of a Fallen Hero.

There is one thing that few military spouses will discuss with you. It looms over every conversation. I think we are afraid if we speak it, that it will be true.  We all fear that the black car will pull into our driveway, and two men in uniform will knock on our door.  

Since we have been stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, we have welcomed home upwards of nine fallen heroes. This is something that can shake even the toughest soldier to his core.  It has been our biggest reality check.

We (the Enlisted Spouses Club) get word a few days prior to the arrival of the fallen hero.  A good number of our ESC members usually attend, all wearing their red ESC shirts in support.  We gather near the base theater, flags in hand, tissues in our pockets.    We all stand and chat, catching up on what we have missed in each others lives over the past few days.  While we chat, the roadside fills up with military members in their uniforms, civilian DoD (Department of Defense) employees. Brian (my husband)even stood with us at a few times.  This happens until there isn’t an empty space along the entire stretch of the roadside.

Where we are standing, if we look to our left, we can see Hangar 4. The first sheriff’s car rounds the corner, lights on.  In an instant, it becomes silent, even our toddlers know to be quiet.   Paisley, my 2-year-old daughter, stands next to me holding her flag.  The silence is so heavy and thick, like a fog. 

The motorcade is long, and traveling slowly.  All the Service members there stand and salute, holding their salute until the final car has gone by.  It starts with sheriff’s cars, then followed by the family members and friends, the fallen hero and ending with the sheriff again.

I always cry because, other than the obvious, it forces me to deal with a harsh reality.  I remember in particular one family rolled down their windows, and audibly thanked the mourners for paying their respect.  My tears were flowing heavily, I didn’t know the soldier personally, but I did.  He was a soldier. He gave his life for the very thing my husband defends.

Many of the fallen heroes are so young, with young widows, and very young children.  Their parents undoubtedly were unprepared to be burying their children.

As military spouses, we rarely allow ourselves to think about this, and we most definitely do not openly discuss our fear. There is no need to. It seems an obvious fear.  Discussing it won’t change anything, and most definitely will not prepare us any better. After all, what preparation could there possibly be?

As the cars drive by, filled with sorrow, I find myself wondering what if it were me.  There is never an answer to that question, because honestly I don’t know.

More than a dozen members of the MacDill ESC turned out to welcome home Kevin Kammerdiener.

I have also had the privilege of welcoming a wounded warrior home, and this experience solidified even more how amazing our volunteer military is.   The ESC gathered at Tampa International to welcome home SPC Kevin Kammerdiener home after a long stent in San Antonio at BAMC burn unit.  My heart swelled, and I got goosebumps as SPC Kammerdiener exited the tram with his mom pushing his wheel chair. He didn’t expect a large crowd and when he saw how many people were there to celebrate him he was overtaken by excitement and joy. 

Kevin Kammerdiener is all smiles at his welcome home greeting of close to 100 people at TIA.

He had his mom stop so he could stand up and walk.  An amazing sight, it was difficult not to be over taken by emotions.

I have been around the military my entire life, and Brian has been in for a very long time. I have to say, for me in particular. MacDill has been my biggest reality check, I have been forced to acknowledge feelings and fears I would not have recognized otherwise. Life is never promised, war is deadly and the good ones don’t always survive.

The video of Marine Cpl. Jonathan Porto homecoming is courtesy of Barbara Wright Brown Guzzon and includes photos of the JCSE, Jackie Dorr’s husband’s unit.

Jackie Dorr is an Army spouse, mother of two, president of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and contributor to Off the Base.  Her other entries include:

Five Years, Two Kids and Four Deployments Later

“I Love You the Mostest!” an Army Spouse Goodbye

The Day I Saw My Future Husband Cry

Computer Kisses Keep Daddy Close

An Army Wife Thing: Giving Birth Over the Phone

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 464 other followers

%d bloggers like this: