Bahrain– How do servicemembers deal with being separated from their loved ones during special holidays? With the fourth of July rapidly approaching, a holiday full of family, barbecues, fireworks, and fun, it’s important to remember that within some families, there will a hole, a missing person amidst all of the celebrations, due to a military obligation. In a couple of weeks, some service members will have to cope with being separated from friends, spouses, and children as they celebrate Independence Day. How do they manage? Some families are excited by grand gestures. Overindulgence is often used as a means of counterbalancing the long periods of time in which they cannot be there for their children. Others rely heavily on constant communication in the form of emails, phone calls if possible, and care packages. Each service member has their own burden to carry and a unique way of bearing it.
Staff Sergeant David Rogers has been in the Air Force for approximately five years. He is currently deployed to NSA 1 Bahrain for twelve months and will miss out on not only Independence Day, but Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family. Rogers admitted that this is nothing new to him; he has missed many special occasions due to his military obligations. The special occasions he is unable to be present for particularly impact his wife.
“My wife has recently given birth to my son
, so she occasionally has a hard time,” said Rogers. “She misses me a lot but never places too much pressure on me because she realizes the sacrifice it takes to be a service member. In many ways, she is a much stronger person than I am when it comes to dealing with the heartache of my absence.”
To help her handle the lengthy separations Rogers said that he logs on to an app and sends her flowers from wherever he is in the world. “I regularly send the flowers without her asking for them or knowing about it,” said Rogers. “It’s just a small gesture to let her know that I’m thinking about her and to brighten up her day.”
Studies Concerning Children
For service members with children, the task of remaining connected may take more effort. According to the BMC Journal, an open-access journal publishing peer-reviewed contributions from across all scientific and clinical studies, evidence has been found linking military service to the psychological impact on spouses, and to children. This link is seen more clearly in children whose parents have deployed. Studies were conducted revealing that within one military group, children of deployed parents showed more problem behavior than children of non-deployed parents. The age of the children had no impact on the results concerning psychological impact. To mitigate some of this impact, an extensive effort needs to be made on the part of the parent, to connect and bond with their child.
“With my son, things are a bit more challenging,” said Rogers. “He is still very young and does not feel the absence at his age yet, but he soon will. The only solution here is to fly my family out whenever possible to reconnect. It’s one of those things you should do regularly, if possible, to strengthen your bond with your loved ones. I think it’s important to develop these habits.”
Since Roger has “unaccompanied” orders to Bahrain, he does have the option to fly his family out, at his own personal expense and have them remain as long as they like. For many family units where both parents are working, this option presents some barriers, but can still be utilized with careful planning, some leave time, BMC Journal, and a little extra work. Rogers expressed that even with his wife being a stay-at-home mom, the trip they’re planning still has its challenges.
“There are a lot of moving parts to travel halfway across the world with a four-month-old baby, but we are thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to see each other again,” said Rogers. We may not be able to see each other on the fourth of July but it’s a sacrifice I signed up for and I’ll take anything.”
All in all, people join the service in order to improve the quality and condition of their lives, as well as the lives of their families. Being separated from loved ones is a price that service members may ultimately pay. Everyone may not fully understand the nature of their sacrifice. Nevertheless, the special occasions missed can be celebrated through effort and heartfelt gestures. Happy 4th of July!
- Parental Military Deployment as a Risk Factor
- Adelola Tinubu from Current Affairs Times interviewed Air Force Staff Sergeant David Rogers.