Major Bryan Woods, his wife, Melodi, and their four children will not be together for the holidays.
It’s just one of many sacrifices military families make as deployments separate soldiers and their families. November is Military Family Appreciation Month when families are recognized for their sacrifices. Woods has spent 15 years in the Army enduring eight military moves and three combat deployments, two to Iraq and his current tour to Afghanistan.
“Bryan saw our youngest daughter, McKaylea, walk for the first time on Yahoo Messenger,” Melodi Woods said. “He celebrated our oldest son’s birthday party on Skype. This Christmas, he will watch our children open their presents on the computer.”
When Bryan Woods was deployed in 2006, he could only talk to his family by phone for no more than 30 minutes.
“In 2010, we started communicating through instant messaging and now we do Facetime,” he said, referring to the iPhone video messaging app.
Woods works the night shift in Afghanistan, which gives him the opportunity to talk with his children every morning before school and every evening to see how their day went.
Mary Greiner, a licensed clinical social worker who lives in Kempner, said military families never know if mommy or daddy is going to come home.
“Service members are gone for a long time through trainings and deployments,” she said. “Deployments and trainings can always be extended. If they come home at night, it’s a gift.”
Greiner said stressors in families have manifested with back-to-back deployments.
“Everyday life doesn’t prepare people for handling thoughts and feelings that war has brought us,” she said adding the real difference is the entire family is in the military, not just the soldier.
“The military has a lot of ability to intrude into the family setting with welfare checks, home inspections, and wrong doing outside of work reported to commanders making it a workplace issue,” Greiner said. “In a civilian setting, your employer would never be involved this much in your personal life.”
The Woods agree talking things through and communicating helps keep the family strong.
“We focus on everyday life moments when Bryan is home because life is short,” Melodi Woods said. “We try to squash any resentment. Sometimes we get angry, but we don’t dwell on it.”