Hearts Apart

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jessica Blair
  • 8th Fighter Wing

I knew my short tour in Korea would be difficult for my one-year-old but would be especially tough for my five-year-old son. Months before I left for Kunsan, I started thinking about how I would tell him I was leaving for Korea, how long I was going to be gone for and why I was leaving in the first place. All the while, I was still having a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that I was going to be away from my two babies for so long.

I explained to my older son that “mommy had to leave for work and would be gone twice as long as daddy was for his deployment” since he had just returned home about five months prior. I knew that would be something that my son could understand. 

After I was notified that I was going to Korea for a year I decided I would mention my short tour to my 5-year-old at casual times during our daily lives, like on the way to school or before bedtime just to give the concept more normalcy and make it less of a shock to him. After I would remind him he’d usually say, “Mommy, you’re going to Korea…just like when daddy left…but twice as long though. I will stay home with daddy and the baby."

Each time I spoke about my upcoming trip and explained its importance to him, I saw he began to understood and come to terms with it more and more each day. By the time I was a few weeks out from leaving he fully understood why it was happening and had already embraced the idea.

This was going to be the longest year of my life so far, not being able to see and hold them every day, but I also knew that it was going to be longer for them. So, I decided that throughout my time in Korea, I was going to find new ways to show them just how much I still love and care about them even if I’m on the other side of the world.

With the 14-hour difference, we first had to overcome the challenge of communicating at a time that worked for all of us. We’ve been able to establish a routine, and it’s become a little easier. My morning alarm goes off and I know that my boys are about to go to bed. So, I get up and FaceTime them for a few minutes so that I can hear all about their day and so that they can hear their mommy tell them goodnight. During the day, we send pictures and videos back and forth so we can share the little details of our very different daily lives. Under my bed, I have a box that I have been filling up with little Korean treats and toys to mail them so that they can see where I am and know that I’m still thinking about them all the time.

These efforts, although small, make us feel more connected. Even though we are living very different types of lives on opposite sides of the world and it has given us things to talk about when we speak on the phone.

            Getting to hear how my youngest, whose second birthday was just last week, is now talking a lot and learning so much, so fast and how my five-year-old is being a big help to their dad and is doing better at school, makes me feel like they are adjusting to this difficult situation just fine.

            They have depended on me for nearly everything; from being reassured that they are loved by physical actions, such as hugging and snuggling, to teaching them how to be respectful and independent little people and everything in between. We have had to make big adjustments in the way that we interact as a family, as we only get fragments of time and interactions with each other now.

            Military families face many challenges that others do not and being a mil-to-mil family adds even more difficulties. When one parent returns home from a deployment or short tour, the other is most likely already on new orders and on their way out the door for their deployment or short tour.

            Military duty affects our spouses and children just as much, if not more. Sometimes it means we miss life’s most significant moments. Holidays, anniversaries and birthdays gifts and celebrations become amazon packages and facetime calls. At other times, it means uprooting our family’s entire lives and moving away from their home, their friends and everything they've ever known to move around the world again.

            We as service members ask so much of our children and spouses, expecting them to be ready for a completely new life, in a new place, in just a matter of months. Always in a constant state of transitions and unknowns.

After a while, moving so often, home becomes more of a feeling of togetherness than just a place. Which is why it’s so tough when one parent has to leave again because we are their one constant; their home.

At the end of the day, I know my military service and my husband’s will only make them well-rounded, culturally aware and remarkably resilient. I know it’s often unfair to them but I chose this life to ensure my children have a better one and so other families don’t have to serve, so they can stay home with their families each and every day.