Tampa Military Parents Group Celebrates 10 Years

T.A.M.P.A. co-founder Cyd Deathe sewing pillows for deployed troops, April 2013.

T.A.M.P.A. co-founder Cyd Deathe sewing pillows for deployed troops, April 2013.

Ten years ago this week, seven parents met for coffee in Tampa. They had two things in common: they all lived in the Tampa Bay area and they all had a child serving in the Marines.

That coffee was followed by a pot-luck dinner and before she knew it, Cyd Deathe had become co-founder of the Tampa Area Marine Parents Association or T.A.M.P.A.

Despite its name, the support group is for all family members and friends serving in every branch of the military. Over its first decade, the support group has sent thousands of care packages to deployed troops and taken on dozens projects at home like supporting veterans’ families that fall through the cracks..

Their first big project was the pillow project. The idea came from Deathe’s son who requested a small pillow, about the size of a laptop computer, that he could rest his head on but was easily packed while on deployment. Thousands have been sewn and mailed to troops since.

“Our favorite story of the pillow,” Deathe said. “One Marine who went on three deployments who refused to let him mother even wash it because he didn’t want to lose that pillow.”10 YEARS_TAMPA

Members meet monthly and maintain a Facebook page as well as a website. Deathe said they plan to celebrate their 10th anniversary all year long.

The celebration kickoff is a picnic Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Hillsborough County’s Veterans Memorial Park on U.S. 301. Everyone is welcome. You are asked to bring your own side-dish, the hot dogs and hamburgers are provided. But, Deathe said no one will be turned away.

In October, the Tampa support group will be represented by 50 runners in the 39th Marine Corps Marathon.

“For the first time in our ten years, we’re so excited, we were accepted as a charity partner by the Marine Corps Marathon Foundation,” Deathe said. “So, we have 50 bibs, some of them are already gone, but we still have some available.”

Even though her son is no longer serving in the Marine Corps, Deathe continued as executive director. It’s her way of serving her country as well as all those who have worn the uniform and their families.

You can listen to Cyd Deathe’s interview on WUSF Public Radio.

TAMPA 10 BDAY INVITE

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Parents on Their Children Going Off to War

Defense contractor and IED detection dog handler Rick Cicero (middle) was recognized for helping to save the life of a Canadian soldier. Photo credit: Sgt. Fredrick Coleman, USMC.

Defense contractor and IED detection dog handler Rick Cicero (middle) was recognized for helping to save the life of a Canadian soldier. Photo credit: Sgt. Fredrick Coleman, USMC.

How do parents of adult children deal with the stress and uncertainty when their child volunteers to go off to war?

Jean Cicero is married to a police officer, now retired. She said it was no surprise that her son, Rick,  joined the Army and served in the first Gulf War or that he became a police officer when he returned home.

“It was kind of hard to decide which was more difficult, which made me crazier,” Jean said. “I would talk to him and he’d go ‘Mom, you’ve got to be brave because if you’re brave then I’m brave.’”

Rick Cicero would ask his mom to be brave again when he headed to Afghanistan as a defense contractor training dogs to detect Improvised Explosive Devices.

“I just said my prayers and hung in there,” Jean said.

Her son was severely injured by an IED in 2010 while on his third tour in Afghanistan. Rick Cicero lost his right arm and right leg.

Other family members stayed with Rick immediately after the injury at the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

Marine Major Gen. Dave Beydler of U.S. Central Command shakes hands with Rick Cicero who was being recognized for helping to save the life of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan in 2010.

Marine Major Gen. Dave Beydler of U.S. Central Command shakes hands with Rick Cicero who was being recognized for helping to save the life of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan in 2010. Photo credit: Sgt. Fredrick Coleman, USMC.

Jean didn’t see her son until he arrived at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital. She remembered that his body was a wreck, but his face told her something else.

“His spirit, his bravery that’s all that you saw. And he said, ‘Mom I’m fine. I’m going to be fine,’” Jean said. “I happened to be there the day, the first day, he put his leg on. So, I saw him stand for the first time out of bed.”

Asked if was similar to watching Rick learn to walk as a toddler, Jean said it was much different and more difficult because she knew the pain he was experiencing..

“You know when they’re babies and they take their first steps, you’re there and you can kind of hold onto them a little bit,” Jean said. “When they put the leg on and he turned to me and said, ‘Mom, don’t watch.’ He wanted to protect me. I couldn’t tell you how proud I was.”

She said within a week Rick was walking all over the hospital. That was almost three years ago.

Rick credits his son, Dylan, for helping him adjust to losing two of his limbs.

Canadian Forces Col. Paul Keddy (left) presents a commendation to Rick Cicero (middle) for helping to save the life of a Canadian soldier. Marine Major Gen. Dave Beydler of CENTCOM also participated in the ceremony.

Canadian Forces Col. Paul Keddy (left) presents a commendation to Rick Cicero (middle) for helping to save the life of a Canadian soldier. Marine Major Gen. Dave Beydler of CENTCOM also participated in the ceremony. Photo credit: Sgt. Fredrick Coleman, USMC.

“The probably best and most challenging moment was the day I woke up and a few minutes after speaking with the nurse, my son walked in,” Rick said. “He was stationed in Afghanistan at the same time and he actually flew with me to Germany on the Medevac flight and had been with me the days I was unconscious.”

Rick said he raised his son to make lemonade when life hands you lemons.

“There was no time to complain,” Rick said reflecting back to that first day in the Landstuhl hospital. “There was no time to gripe. And it was probably the best thing that could happen to me because you know here’s my son, I’ve got to man up.”

Rick now volunteers his time visiting severely wounded troops at the Haley VA Hospital.

His son, Dylan Cicero, is turning 22 and working to qualify for Special Forces.

Having served and suffered the loss of a leg and arm, Rick focuses on what he can do to help Dylan succeed.

“Coddling them is not going to do it,” Rick said. “That’s going to make them second guess, it’s going to make them lack in their commitment. What we need to do is reinforce in them – you’re trained. I raised you since a little one now and you have the right tools to do this.”

Rick said he has faith, faith in his son and faith that he will succeed.

A Reservist’s Parents Pay a Price for the War

The Holt Family. Photo courtesy of VAntage Point.com.

Army Reservist Katie Holt wrote a heartfelt entry about her enlistment after the 9-11 attacks and what happened to her parents  after she  deployed. The full article is available in the Department of Veterans Affairs electronic newsletter VAntage Point.

Holt, in retrospect, wishes she had given her parents this advice as she left for Iraq in 2004:

The next year or so of your life is going to suck. In fact, you’ll probably find yourselves mad at me for joining the Army. My war is your war and war is hell. . .on both fronts. There will be times when you’ll have no one else to turn to but each other. Embrace it and be thankful that at least one other person gets it. Go to therapy, you’ll need the support.

She writes about visiting her father at his nursing home to share the news about the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden and the war was worth it:

I realized reassurance wasn’t what mattered. I leaned over, kissed my dad on his head and said thank you. Military parents and family are sometimes forgotten, their sacrifices during wartime ignored and support for them can be miniscule. My family, and many others, will forever be changed by the ongoing conflicts, and to them I say thank you.

Highlighting the sacrifices of all military family members and helping civilians understand and support them is the mission of this blog. Thank you Katie and Mr. and Mrs. Holt.

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