The U.S. has been at war for more than 11 years now. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from all over the country have been sent overseas to serve since October of 2001.
Matt Lehman, a first lieutenant in the Vermont Air National Guard, is one of them. He deployed earlier this year, leaving his wife, Tasha, and their three boys behind.
Tasha has been writing about the experience for Kids VT. Her "Use Your Words" essay in the February issue described how the family prepared for Matt's departure, and her "Diaries of a Vermont Military Family" series on our blog has chronicled their ongoing challenges and triumphs.
We're grateful, and honored, that she's sharing her family's journey with us.
Here are a few excerpts from her blog posts. Read more on the Kids VT Blog.
— Cathy Resmer, executive editor
Every book I've read and seasoned military wife I've talked to has told me the same thing: "Everything will break the day after he leaves." I scoffed at such a notion. Sure, something is bound to go wrong along the way, but let's not get dramatic.
Life has a funny way of putting you in your place.
Just a few days before my husband, Matt, was set to deploy, a random, unexpected windstorm blew in. A tree fell on our house. I woke up to a loud crack, a boom and screaming children. Yep. A tree. On our house. I was thankful Matt was there in that moment and during the next day, when the tree was being removed. I was left to deal with insurance adjusters and roofers and that pesky hole in the roof.
The deployment curse had begun. And there was no stopping it.
Day One goes off without a hitch. It's our 14th wedding anniversary, and my thoughtful husband sends me flowers and a touching card. I enjoy the day despite the growing loneliness in my heart.
Day Two. I get the kids on the bus. I'm excited to get all the grocery shopping and errands done. I try to start my van with my remote car starter. The engine doesn't turn. Strange. I kiss the car starter and pray for the magic to happen. Turns out, even a desperate kiss can't warm up the frozen heart of a vehicle when it is -10°F. I trek out to the van to try to start it myself.
Click. Click. Click. Nothing.
It's too cold, I decide. It just needs a jump. Easy fix! You won't get me today, curse! I walk up and down the street to find a neighbor to give me a jump. No one is home. My neighbors are always home. But not today.
I Instagram a picture of my plight (because that's the natural thing to do when in distress) and a friend hears my cry for help. He finds that not only is my battery dead, it's like ... dead-dead. Long story short: Several frozen fingers and the cost of a new battery later, my van is running again.
Over the next couple of weeks, more goes terribly awry. We lose heat. A pipe freezes. Two days later, no hot water. The next day, the smoke detectors in every single room of the house go off and won't stop.
Shall I go on?
I'm not sure if things are really breaking more often than usual or if I'm just noticing it more since my in-house handyman is out of town.
It's only been a week since Matt deployed. I was doing the laundry, feeling fine — just another day at home. As I pulled dirty clothes from the basket in our bedroom, I found some of his. I lifted out the shirt he wore the day before he left. I held it up to my nose and inhaled every last breath my lungs would allow. Again. And again.
It's amazing how scent can trigger your mind. I was instantly holding him again. The tears flowed freely as I clutched the one piece of physical evidence of him that remained in the house. I couldn't bring myself to wash it. I still have it lying on my bed. His scent is starting to fade from the shirt, but I keep it there anyway.
I tucked my son in tonight. He cried. I cried. It's become a regular thing, this crying at bedtime. With Daddy deployed, there are a hundred reasons to shed a tear during lights out. Mix in being tired, overstimulated and coming down off of that too-many-cookies-for-dessert sugar high and you have a meltdown cocktail.
And that's just me. My poor son has his own problems.
I don't believe many people think about military families on an everyday basis and what we go through during deployment. It's truly a difficult experience. Our loved ones are thousands of miles away serving in the military to protect the way of life we have all become so accustomed to.
It's so easy to take this life for granted, to forget, to complain. Just once in your day, could you do me a favor? Could you stop and imagine bedtime at my house and those of thousands of other families like ours across the country? Could you say a prayer for us?
The weekends are definitely the hardest on me. The days just seem to last forever. What used to be a couple of days of family fun time has somehow turned into me just surviving until Monday morning. And I do not like it at all. So I made a plan to intentionally make our weekends so very busy that we collapse into bed by the end of the day.
My biggest tool in doing so has been the Kids VT events calendar. I can keep track of what's happening around our area with ease, and, man, has it made a difference! Events we have been able to take advantage of: Free Pancake Day at IHOP, the YMCA Sports Night Out and life-size Candy Land at the University Mall.
We are also very involved with local events provided specifically for military kids. Our biggest resource is a UVM Extension Program called Operation: Military Kids. They hold events all over the state at no cost to us. Thanks to OMK and their community volunteers, our kids can connect with others who understand exactly what they are going through — while having a fantastic time. Last weekend we did some printmaking in Waterbury. We met other military families and talked about how art can help us relay our feelings and relieve our stress.
Our military families also have the opportunity to be involved with local programs and businesses for free. We are currently able to apply for a free membership at the YMCA and ski at almost all of the local ski resorts for free or at a discount. Many local restaurants offer a military discount as well. Thanks to all of you who make us military families feel so loved and supported!
I love those old "I Want You!" Uncle Sam posters. His pointed finger follows me around the room. He's always pointing at me. He really does want me!
When my husband was considering joining the Vermont Air National Guard, it was a family decision. This choice would change our lives. He's not the only one who joined the military; we all did.
We all have a choice in this country. It's a pretty fantastic benefit of living in the grand USA. We can choose what we want to be. My husband chose to be an Air Force engineer. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. I then chose to use my open schedule to support fellow military families.
You have a choice, too. You may choose a different path in life. I hope you follow your dreams as we have followed ours. Can I tell you something, though?
We want you!
Don't worry. We don't want you to put on a uniform or head overseas. We simply want you to know that, just as much as this country needs the men and women of the military, we need you. We need you to support us. We need you to think of us.
If you've ever shaken the hand of a military member or a veteran and said, "Thank you for your service," you made our day. If you shoveled the sidewalk of a woman who has a deployed spouse, you did your job. If you bring a meal to a husband whose wife is away for training, you made us proud.
We want you. We need you! Make us proud.
Continue following Tasha and her family on their journey on the Kids VT blog. Her blog posts appear there weekly.
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