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Despite deployment, they take heart on Valentine's Day

by Airman 1st Class Andrea Thacker
Thunderbolt editor

A wife of six years is having a bittersweet Valentine's Day because her husband is deployed to Southwest Asia. Sonia Moore has to settle for an overseas phone call from her master sergeant husband. She and her 4-year-old son are not alone, because Moore has found other military spouses in the same situation and they are not letting it bring them down. The four spouses planned a trip together to the state fair.

"I am lonely, but I understand he is in the military and has to do what he has to do," said Moore. Valentine's Day, among many other holidays, is difficult for military members and their families but is part of the sacrifices made by servicemembers every day.

Not only does Maj. Dave Cresswell know what it is like to miss Valentine's Day, but one year he was gone for every birthday, anniversary and holiday. However, he managed to stay in contact with his wife and two daughters through telephone calls.

"Initially I'd get pumped up but, after the call was over, I was kind of bummed because I knew it was going to be at least a week before I could talk to them again," said Cresswell.

"One time while I was deployed my family moved into a different house," said Cresswell. "When I left for Saudi we were on the waiting list for base housing and while I was there our number came up. If my wife had turned it down our name would have gone to the bottom of the list, so she packed up the house and moved all our stuff into a new house."

Being a part of a military family comes with added responsibilities such as moving often, making new friends, taking care of the house while the other is gone and switching jobs.

"You just do the things you have to do and enjoy the good times when you are together," said Cresswell's wife of 28 years, Wanda.

Although the family of Lt. Col. Henry Polzcer has been blessed and has not been challenged with many significant family events during his TDY days, they have seen their share of separations and are always trying to prepare for the unexpected.

"I prepare for my departure by fixing what can be fixed and help Gretchen feel comfortable with the additional responsibilities that will come her way," said Polzcer. "Even then, things will happen apart from all the preplanning; it's important to make sure she's tied in with a support group so that she can call on others for a helping hand when needed.

"Of course, it's also extremely important to support your spouse with loads of praise for all she's doing and provide encouragement to keep on."

Many of the spouses, male and female, agree they couldn't do it without knowing their mates are waiting for them and supporting them while alone.

"As with many families, it always seems like the car doesn't start or the water heater breaks when the spouse goes TDY," said Gretchen. "I've grown personally just from having to fend for myself during those times of separation."

"Additionally, my family and my faith have always been a continuous source of help and strength, but I know that I have really come to appreciate the spouse support groups I been involved with over the years," said Gretchen. "There has never been a time when I couldn't count on a helping hand or a listening ear to help me get through the day."

MacDill's Family Support Center offers many programs to help loved ones stay in contact during deployments.

"Military bases offer numerous facilities and programs that are geared solely to helping the military family. It's an asset that you won't readily find in the civilian community," said Polzcer.

The Family Readiness Program is one of many geared to keep the lines of communication open. This program offers video telephones, morale calls and free phone cards.

The video telephones provide a live camera view while conversing, but this may not always be possible due to limited equipment available at the deployed location. Thanks to the morale calls, family members are entitled to two free phones calls to their loved ones each month.

Additionally, every time an active-duty Air Force member deploys, he or she can stop by the FSC and pick up a free $20 phone card that can be used to call home.

MacDill is doing everything possible to help families stay in touch.

"Making sure your family is aware of the programs offered is one of the most important pieces of your lines of communications," said Master Sgt. Connie White, FSC Readiness Program.




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