Monday, September 24, 2007

Those left behind stay close

For each National Guardsman who is being deployed, there are family members left behind.

Chastity Rhoades of Marland, leader of the Guard's Family Readiness Group, and co-leader Brenda VanZandt of Osage County are working to make the next year or so as easy as possible for the spouses and children.

"When my husband was deployed five years ago, I was alone in Alva with nobody for me to talk to," Rhoades said. "I bonded more with the girls in Ponca City."

Her husband Michael went with the active Army in 1991 and in 2002 deployed with the Bravo Company from Alva.

"We have 100 women to get to know during this deployment," she said. "They all have their own perspective — the wives' perspectives, the mothers' perspectives and the children's perspectives."

It is often something their non-military friends can't identify with.

"Our friends who are not military can't really understand. They can feel for you, but they can't feel IT," VanZandt said.

Rhoades said the majority of the women in this group are young, newly married or they've moved up their wedding dates.

"We have several guys who are going to miss their child's birth," she said.

The Family Readiness Group is set up to provide support and information.

"A lot of women will need help with legal, financial and insurance issues," Rhoades said.

The FRG is trying to get a website built which would provide information as well as a social network for families which are scattered over a wide geographic area.

"We had one last time my husband deployed," Rhoades said. "If you woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep, you could probably find someone online."

VanZandt said they also are setting up a phone network to check on all the families from time to time.

"We are finding different ways of helping everyone, especially the young marrieds who are a long way from their families, so we can be self-sufficient while the guys are gone," VanZandt said.

She said they plan to get together every quarter to vent about their problems.

They also are working with the children's schools and setting up a buddy system for the children.

Since the Guardsmen come from a wide area, VanZandt said they are trying to make everyone feel at home during the deployment.

"We have so many people who are just here with us through the deployment," she said. "We want them to feel welcome."

Several businesses have helped create that welcome, she said, providing contributions of merchandise or service.

Among those who have opened their arms to the Guardsmen and their families are Ponca City Ice Co., Ponca City Discount Foods, Walgreen's, ConocoPhillips, Quality Water, Wheel Sport, Albertson's Distribution Center, Dorsetts in Tonkawa, Osage Trading Post, TPI Staffing, Tonkawa Indian Tribe, Terry and Shirley Pugh and Steve Struble of Joblink.

Many of these businesses and individuals have contributed items for care packages for the troops or postage for mailing packages. Others have provided goods and services to those preparing for deployment.

"A lot of times people's patriotism has gotten to me," Rhoades said. "People will come up to us if Michael is in his uniform and will offer to pay for our meal."

VanZandt said her husband Kelly often finds merchants offering him pop or some other small kindness.

Even with the work they are doing for other families, Rhoades and VanZandt know they will have a hard adjustment when their husbands deploy.

"Kelly is honestly my best friend in the whole world," VanZandt said.

Both women said the hours after their children are in bed are when they and their husbands were able to talk about their days and just cut up.

"That's when my story time is," VanZandt said. "That's when I tell him everything that happened during the day."

Rhoades said this time will be different for her and their children.

"Communications will be better than last time. I went five weeks without hearing from Michael," Rhoades said.

VanZandt, who is from a military family, said her husband's family and hers "pull up together real tight."

Rhoades plans to get an extra clock during this deployment which will be set on "Daddy Time" so the children will know what time it is there.

Both the Rhoades and the VanZandts have blended families. The Rhoades' children are Shane Kimbrell, 16, Jaymie Rhoades, 13, and Randie Rhoades, 10.

The VanZandts' children are Ciara VanZandt, 22, Brittany Garner, 17, Chelsea VanZandt, 16, Sierra Garner-VanZandt, 13, Cheyenne VanZandt, 9, and Chelsee Garner-VanZandt, 9.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haven't read the other one yet, but I liked this one. It's more fun to read the news when you know the writer. :)