Lessons Learned from a Son’s First Deployment

Dorie Griggs inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping. PHOTO CREDIT: Stanley Leary

Dorie Griggs inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping.
PHOTO CREDIT: Stanley Leary

By Dorie Griggs

My son’s battalion will return home soon. I’ve looked through my photos and notes about the year.

During that time I have mailed over 443 pounds of needed items to both my son, his platoon, and the battalion. That number includes a Christmas mailing providing gift bags for each member of the platoon, a large shipment of items to the battalion headquarters of underwear and socks, as well as Easter, birthday and regular care packages.

Putting these mailings together was a community effort. It helped me pass the time by providing helpful items to our soldiers. Many of my friends sent their own boxes. I know my son and his soldiers appreciated their gifts. Continue reading

A Soldier’s Homecoming with His Dog Chuck

A boxer named Chuck welcomes home his soldier after an 8 month deployment. This YouTube video has already gone viral with more than 2 million views. Watch it and you’ll understand. However the second video below, from the soldier’s previous deployment, has had fewer views.

Chuck, just like many military families, has gone through more than one deployment. Here he is from 2011 (the video was posted in February) when his friend and “daddy” returned from another deployment.

Do you have a video to share from a homecoming? Send me the YouTube link bobrien@wusf.org and I’ll share it.

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.

Blue Star Mom Recalls Son’s Call Before Deploying

Blue Star Mom Tracie Ciambotti over the last two days has shared her personal thoughts and anxiety about her son’s upcoming third deployment. The first two were in Iraq, this time he’s headed to Afghanistan.

It seems appropriate to introduce you to a former Blue Star Mom, Sue Diaz. She’s a journalist who contacted me offering to share a video she produced. The You Tube video is made from excerpts of her book, “Minefields of the Heart.” The book’s subtitle: a mother’s stories of a son at war.

My thanks to Sue who not only writes – she teaches writing workshops for veterans at the San Diego Vet Center. Diaz also started a blog for their posts: The Warriors Wall.

An Army Wife Thing: Giving Birth Over the Phone

Army wife Sarah and her deployed husband, Brian, share the birth of their daughter, Zaylee, over the phone.

By Jackie Dorr

My phone rang, it seemed relatively early in the morning so I figured it was probably Brian calling to check in and see how I was doing before I headed into work. 

 “Jackie, I am contracting and I am heading to the hospital,” it was Sarah! Haha, looking back I chuckle because I sprang into action as if it were my own child.  I threw some clothes on and picked up the phone to call into work.  My boss said she didn’t quite understand, but she knew “it must be an Army wife thing” and understood I needed to be there. 

Both of our husbands (both named Brian) were deployed together. So, we forged a bond quickly.  They had left only two or so months prior and her husband couldn’t make it back for the delivery of their third beautiful child.

Hospital staff helped fill up the room at the birth of Zaylee, an Army daughter.

After several hours of labor and an epidural, it was time to birth this little miracle. I stood on one side of Sarah while holding the hospital phone cradled between my shoulder and ear with her husband Brian on the line.   

It was really a funny moment. One of our friends stood on a chair at the head of the bed to get pictures. Sarah’s mom stood on the other side of her and the hospital staff took up half the room.  

Sarah made the birth of Zaylee seem effortless.

Sarah made it look easy, after only a short while of pushing there she was, such a breath-taking little girl.  They wanted to know who would be cutting the chord since Brian wasn’t there. Before I could think, I was asked to cut the umbilical chord.

Then (her) Brian asked me to take the phone over to the sweet little baby so he could hear her cry from thousands of miles away. He then asked me to bring him back to his courageous wife so that he could thank her and congratulate her.  It was such a sweet moment, and I can’t imagine what feelings he was experiencing hearing his newborn child take her first breaths.

My husband said it was neat on the other end. They had set it up so that Sarah’s Brian had privacy while listening to his wife bravely birth their child.  He said that everyone was on pins and needles with anticipation.

I left the hospital that evening exhausted but feeling blessed.  Once I got home I slipped into my comfy pajamas, and crawled into bed.  I was reflecting on the days events when my phone rang. It was late at night so again I assumed it was Brian calling to chat about the exciting day I just had.  

Jackie cuddles with newborn Zaylee so mom can get some sleep.

Sarah was on the other end. She wanted me to come back and stay the night.  Without hesitation, I put clothes back on and drove up to the hospital.

Sarah was exhausted from her long day, and wanted to sleep but Zaylee was wide-awake.  I took  the swaddled infant allowing Sarah to get her much deserved rest.  I cuddled with Zaylee that night knowing everything would be amazing for their family and feeling very lucky to be so close to them.

To the people I knew who weren’t in the military, they thought this to be strange, but to us it wasn’t   Our husbands were gone and we became close like a family.  Without each other, we would be in it alone.

Sarah introduces Zaylee to her siblings.

Sarah’s daughter was absolutely beautiful and perfect in every way. Her husband didn’t get to witness her birth, but he did get to experience it.  Sarah’s husband missed Zaylee’s first year of life as well. They deployed late in 2006 and didn’t return until January of 2008.

I feel blessed to have been included in such a special moment and I will always share that bond with Sarah, Zaylee and her Brian.  One blessing us army families have is that our “family” is much larger than just us.

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

MacDill CARES Simulates Deployment for Kids

Fifth graders are lined up in their "chalks" ready to enter Hangar 4 for their simulated deployment to Qatar.

Military exercises are routine at MacDill Air Force Base, but they held one Thursday that was different. It was a mock deployment exercise for fifth graders from the base’s Tinker Elementary School.

The 100 students arrived at the base theater in buses much like their military parents arrive at a deployment processing center. That’s the purpose of the MacDill CARES (Contingency and Readiness Education) exercise to let children experience what their parents go through from simulated immunization shots to being briefed on the mission.

Kimberly Mohabir smiles as she receives a simulated immunization shot which is really a vile of candy.

At one point, Lt. Col. Aaron Meadows asked the school kids how many had a parent deploy.

“Practically every single person raised their hand,” Meadows told reporters later. “In today’s military, every person deploys at one time or another overseas in their career.”

Fifth grader Kimberly Mohabir’s dad is in the Navy but she learned some new things.

“I’m not in the Air Force,” Mohabir said. “My dad’s in a different branch. So it’s kind of cool to learn about a different branch how they deploy.”

Al-nound Fatias, 15, shares details about her home country Qatar, the destination of the students' simulated deployment.

The fifth graders also were briefed about Qatar – the destination of their simulated deployment. Al-nound Fatias, 15, presented photographs and details about her country from its climate to its customs and culture. Her father is a Brigadier General with Qatar and assigned to MacDill Air Force Base.

The students wanted to know to know what the food was like in Qatar and how long it took Fatias to learn English. One fifth-grader asked her to say “Chicken McNuggets” in Arabic. She said “Chicken McNuggets” which raised some laughter.

But, the children also got some reality checks like from Air Force Chaplain Capt. William Spencer.

“When you’re deploying you may have concerns,” Spencer told the group. “Maybe something is going on in your families and you want to talk to a chaplain about that. You can talk to us and when you talk to us it is 100 percent confidential no matter what you share with us. We hold it confidential. We don’t tell anyone and no one can make us tell.”

The students are lined up awaiting entry into Hangar 4 where more than a dozen "stations" were set up for students to try on protective gear and check out aircraft.

The children were divided into groups called “chalks.” That’s because if they were deploying like most of their parents have – they would line up on a chalk line before boarding an aircraft or bus.

Each “Chalk” was processed the students given a bag of goodies, dog tags and simulated immunization shots before being bused to Hangar 4 where they were greeted by Air Force Capt. Bell, head of the deployment.

Proudly holding the standard for Chalk 1 was Dominique Kelley whose military parent is based at MacDill but has not deployed.

Dominique Kelley earned the privilege of holding the Chalk 1 standard by winning a staring contest.

“I feel that the people who have been are strong fighters,” Kelley said. “They are very brave to fight through the moment without some of their parents. I feel that they are one of the bravest kids that they can be.” 

That includes his classmate standing next to him, Sierah Ginnity, whose dad has deployed twice.

“When I was five and my dad first went on to this bus, we all started crying and were so sad because we missed my dad. It’s very tear jerking,” Ginnity said. To prepare for the CARE Exercise, her dad told her “Prepare to be proud and to be a leader.”

Sierah Ginnity holds the standard for the photograph to her right is Randen Jones, both children have had their parents deploy.

She then asked to hold the Chalk 1 standard which was a flag for Army Airborne. Another member of Chalk 1 was Randen Jones.

“My dad is always being deployed,” Randen said. “So, I’d really like to experience what he experiences being deployed,”

He got that chance as the children spent the day trying on protective combat gear, checking out medical equipment, weapons and a KC 135 tanker aircraft before going through the last step, reintegration, heading back to school or home.

TV Report Captures Military Life of Deployed Families

Tuesday night, WTVT Fox 13 featured MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club President Jackie Dorr and mentioned this blog in a story about life as a military family.

Jackie is a frequent contributor to Off the Base.  Her entries include:

Five Years, Two Kids and Four Deployments Later

“I Love You the Mostest”

The Day I Saw My Future Husband Cry

Computer Kisses Keep Daddy Close

Oprah, First Lady Focus on Military Families

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