San Luis Obispo soldier on 9/11, family and deployment
September 11, 2011
By JAVIER DURAN
Like every other American 9/11 changed the way I viewed life and our vulnerability, as a country, in our small world. No longer did I feel comfortable leaving my house, city, state, country without the fear of someone trying to do harm to my family or me.
This feeling echoed across to other families who might be experiencing the same thoughts and concerns. Having this ill feeling stuck in my stomach motivated me to answer the call to join the service and defend my family. All this was done prior to being married and having a child.
A few years later I married and shortly after the call came to inform me it was my turn to go overseas. Never did I expect the fear and anguish of knowing I would leave my family behind and I would not be able to help them during their time of need.
One year prior to mobilizing my wife and I began to take marriage counseling classes through military and civilian support channels. This was important to strengthen our bonds and to provide guidance of what military spouses should expect during deployment. From the seminars I learned it takes soldiers time to build their relationships with their spouses when they return home from a combat zone.
As time neared towards my mob date I could see the anguish in my wife’s eyes. I was the provider and soon I would leave. We have no family near SLO and I would leave her to depend on close friends and associates.
Then there is my “Precious.” My daughter, two years at the time, who is a handful and is a high needs child. From a young age my “Precious” has always needed extra help with her cognitive learning abilities. This has required constant visits to the pediatrician to request referrals to see a neurologist or other behavioral support groups.
Then there is my beautiful wife born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico (3rd largest city in the world) and now she was living in tiny SLO. Talk about a culture shock. While in Mexico she was accustomed to waking up at 3:30 a.m. every morning to get to work by 8:00 a.m. and now, in SLO, she would be lucky if she could find a store open by 8:00 a.m.
Three months prior to mob date and we had a Yellow Ribbon event. Yellow Ribbon is an event which provides information, services, referral, and proactive outreach programs to soldiers of the Army Reserve and their families through all phases of the deployment cycle. Towards the end of the event a chaplain gave the farewell invocation and that is when my wife began to cry.
The reality had bared down on her that I was leaving soon into harm’s way.
The last three months prior to mob I was cramming all these legal documents down my wife’s throat. I had to make sure she had a power of attorney letter, power of parentage letter (required when traveling to Mexico), and of course my death will and life insurance. She would be in charge of everything while I was gone. Car payments, rent, bills, etc. you name it she would have to do it alone.
Doesn’t seem like much? Well try doing this as a single parent and add on top of that the daily thought your loved one not coming home.
Mob date came and went and before you knew it I was in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan I have no worries because I know the bad guys are outside the wire. They are either friendly or not friendly too easy.
I worry more about making sure my wife and little one are okay because I cannot do anything from where I am at. I cannot provide moral support, physical support or anything, so I depend a lot on my wife to stay strong for our family. She is the anchor which holds us down She is it for my daughter and me. If she goes down then I go down, and if I go down I will not be combat effective.
There is nothing more lethal than having a “Joe” not focused on his mission because he/she is worried of their love ones back home. My wife has a very important role in keeping strong for the family. We call that intestinal fortitude in the military.
Earlier this year my wife had a medical emergency where she drove herself to the hospital with my daughter. They determined she had a gallbladder infection due to gallstones and they gave her a high dose of pain medication until she could see her regular doctor. Under high medication she found her way back to the house with daughter in tow.
When she told me of the incident over the phone I was furious and felt helpless. I was mad because she drove intoxicated and helpless because I was not there.
When she finally saw her doctor she was told her gallbladder would need to be removed. I cried out to her to inform the Red Cross so I could be next to her side. She did not want me to come home because the operation was going to be a small procedure and she knew I had important work to do were I was at. The operation was a success and I thanked God everything turned out okay.
With all this happening there is also my “Precious” who finds a way to play a part in the picture. Because of her chemical imbalance she is not able to control her high energy. She is always on the go. She cannot be in our apartment for a long period of time without screaming, running, jumping trying to spend her energy. If she is not outside running, swimming or doing some activity she drives my wife nuts.
So with my wife’s medical condition, financial responsibilities, house chores, she must and I say “must” find time to provide my daughter with extra-curricular activities. When I am at home my mission is to help my “Precious” expend that energy by taking her to the park or running with her. No problem but my wife has to do all this on her own. Sure once in a while we have family and friends that visit and help out, but my wife is the one who carries the full burden.
As I slowly approach the end of my deployment my wife, daughter and I will continue our hurdles until I am home.
With all this said I just want to make sure people clearly understand this is not just a sacrifice I am making alone, but my wife and daughter too. I am just giving you a taste of my experience during my mobilization. This is something present with a lot of soldiers and their families.
Many times there is the neglect of forgetting the other group of people that bear the heavy burden of having a loved one in harm’s way. Families; specifically, immediate families must endure a day to day ordeal of trying to make sure their deployed spouse is okay. The simple thought of hearing their voice over the phone puts their mind at ease.
While deployed a soldier may lose track of time due to the demand of work or the choice to not count the days. I cannot say the same for the wife/husband who must endure the endless time before their loved one is home. If you know a wife/husband or child of service member say thank you to them too.
In my eyes the wife/husband and children are the true heroes of war. They are also making the ultimate sacrifice.
In closing I want to say happy birthday to my beautiful wife Brisa. You are the reason I stay strong over here. You are the hope that drives my passion to do good and be good in life. You have blessed me with my little “Precious” and I shall do everything in my power to come back to you guys.
I also want to say thanks to a few people of the community who have been helping my wife during my absence and have played an important part of my family’s life. I really want to say thank you to Melissa Lovett-Adair, RN. Since the day my “Precious” was born Melissa has been there for my family trying to provide guidance and support for my daughter’s needs. I am completely indebted for all your hard work and commitment to my family.
I want to say thank you to my neighbors Mari and Daniel for offering and providing transportation or other support to my wife and child. I want to say thank you to Greg Shearer for all the volunteer work and commitment he has made to the Veterans of SLO County. I want to say thank you to Ms. Baker, Mr./Ms. Wilks and everyone from Arbiter Systems, Inc. for sending me all those care packages.
Care packages are always welcomed and appreciated by me and the Joe’s here. I want to say thank you to SLO County for being a wonderful place and providing support to the troops and their families.
Finally, I want to say thank you to SFC Rolando Montemayor and his wife Patty. Monte, thank you for being a mentor and helping my family during our time of need. You are a true definition of what an NCO should be and we are making your proud over here in Afghanistan.
Javier Duran is deployed in Afghanistan with the 217th Finance Management Detachment.