By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD - If you don't have family nearby, make one.

That's what Cristin Smith and her soldier husband did when they were stationed in Hawaii. Because blood relatives were so far away, the Smiths made friends with other soldiers and their loved ones and they became family - there for each other through the changes that come with military life.

One by one, the Hawaii family had to part, yet another result of changes that come with military life.

The Smiths kept in touch with their surrogate family - which included Staff Sgt. Gregory Coots and his soldier wife - on Facebook. The family eventually reunited at Fort Hood and resumed the strong friendship that helped them years before in Hawaii.

Coots departed Fort Hood for Iraq on Wednesday night, one of about 200 from the 4th Sustainment Brigade who gathered at Abrams Physical Fitness Center with their loved ones.

The brigade will spend the next year providing support to units remaining in Iraq. All U.S. troops are to be out of the country by December, and the brigade's commander, Col. Ronald Kirklin, said Wednesday night that the 4th Sustainment may very well close the book on Sustainment operations in Iraq.

The brigade was set to deploy to Kuwait, but orders came in late December that it would instead go to Iraq.

Smith's husband departed for a yearlong deployment to Korea this week, but she was at Abrams with her four children to see Coots off. She was joined by others from the Hawaii/Fort Hood family: Jay Jackson and Abigail Doyle.

Smith will live with Coots' wife while he is deployed and serve as the stay-at-home-mom for her children and the Coots' daughter.

"We make it work," Smith said.

To Smith, it's simple: no matter where she is, she can survive by making good friends and making them her family.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary or

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