By SEAN ROWLEY
During wartime, military families may endure nearly as much hardship as their loved ones in the field.
November is Military Family Appreciation Month, and many are reflecting on the sacrifices of those closest to the men and women of the armed services.
A request to readers on Facebook brought some responses from military families about the troubles they endure when their loved one is absent.
Stephani Kaufman Bayhylle said she had been through a pair of deployments with her husband.
“It’s even more difficult I think when the family is not active duty and doesn’t live close to a military post/base,” she wrote. “The support for those families is very minimal. The first deployment is the most difficult because families have no idea what to expect and have to learn new things quickly, for example how tri-care insurance works, who to contact in an emergency, chain of command, and all those military acronyms, too.”
Sommer Thompson-Mabe indicated a son had just entered basic in January, but said the family is adjusting to “the experience of not seeing him all the time or being able to pick up the phone and call anytime.”
Jesse Garrett is a Tahlequah native, 2004 Tahlequah High School graduate, mother of two and wife of a special forces officer. She lives in Colorado Springs, and cites a common discomfort for military families - frequent residential moves.
“His schedule is constantly changing, and that can be trying,” she wrote in an email exchange. “Since we had our boys, it gets harder for me to move, having to start all over again. It is hard for me to wrap my head around that my oldest son was born in Georgia and my second in Colorado, all the while they do not have a state to call home. They are military brats.”
Garrett wrote that her older son, age 3, realizes when his father leaves, but does not understand why; that each deployment presents new challenges; and that she focuses on her husband’s homecomings. However, being an army wife has its benefits.
“I love when he comes home to us,” Garrett wrote. “It makes me appreciate him being home that much more. If he is home for Christmas, he almost always gets two weeks off. We get him all to ourselves. You also make a family within the military. As hard as it is to leave each time we move, we have created so many wonderful friendships - the kind that stay with you.”
Capt. Tanner Garrett, Jesse’s husband, also appreciates his chosen career.
“While there are a lot of sacrifices, seeing my husband happy with his job, truly enjoy what he does, it makes it worthwhile,” Jesse wrote.
Families having difficulties can contact organizations including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars or Blue Star Mothers. Such groups offer support or can provide information about where to find help.
“Mainly, we put together care packages for specific units deployed overseas,” said Billie Walker of Blue Star Mothers. “But we will try to help families whenever there is a need. If there is a family with a member deployed or caring for a wounded warrior, we try to help with school clothes for the children or meals. We don’t do a lot of fundraising. We don’t have to. The people of Tahlequah are generous to us.”
Tony O’Seland, adjutant to Blackfox-Hartness American Legion Post 135, said the Legion offers an array of assistance.
“We offer services in family finance, counseling, placement, education, and almost everything you can think of aside from bills and food,” O’Seland said. “Citizens forget that American Legion is not just for the veterans themselves, but it is a full-service outreach program for the entire military family.”
Online resources include the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs at www.ok.gov/odva and the American Legion at www.legion.org. A search for “family services” will lead to specific information on the legion site. For information about Blue Star Mothers, call Walker at (918) 458-0469.
The 23rd annual Veterans Appreciation Banquet for veterans, their families and friends is Saturday, Nov. 9 from 4-6 p.m. in the community ballroom of the Restaurant of the Cherokees. Veterans and spouses can attend for free. Adults are admited for $13. Reservations are required. Call Alex Borowski at (918) 457-6361, Sheila Ratliff at (918) 458-9107 or Cynthia Myhre at (918) 453-0817.
To read an online exclusive about TDP’s upcoming Salute to the Military section, go to www.tahlequahTDP.com