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Wife of Soldier Tammy K. MAG
Mrs. Tammy K. is a high school history teacher at Mount Saint Charles Academy, and the wife of Chad K. who is in the Army Reserve. He is the 3rd Platoon leader in Iraq, and an E-6 Sergeant. Mr. K. has been stationed in southern Iraq for 12 months, and will be returning home soon. During his absence, Mrs. K. has had to work, raise their two children, and manage the household.
Your husband left Iraq today. How long will he be home?
Hopefully for good. We won’t know if he will be reactivated. He’s got 15 more months left in the military, and then he retires after 20 years of service. He’s been in since we were 17.
How do your kids keep focused at school and function while their dad is away?
Well, to be honest, I believe that they’re too young [to understand the war], because John is nine and Kaitlyn is seven. I think they just deal with it, and don’t really think about it too much during the day. They’ve got school, activities, they both do karate, and there’s dance and baseball. They’re very busy. So it hits them at night when their dad would normally be home for dinner and would tuck them in, that sort of stuff. And then John’s the typical boy who tries not to cry about it, but he does. And Kaitlyn, well, she cries about everything. I’ve been in close contact with their teachers through this whole thing, and luckily, there are no problems in school.
How do you explain that their dad is in danger?
Well, when he first went, we told them, “Daddy’s going to help the people in Iraq.” We didn’t say that it’s a war. And over time, as my son got older, he heard and saw things, and asked me one day, “Can Dad be, well, ... [in danger]?” I said he could be because he drives a truck, so he’s transporting things. There are days that I know he’s not on the base, so I get nervous because I just don’t know [if he’s all right]. So, over time they have figured out that there are days that he could be in danger. And again, they’re young and I don’t think they realize the concept of dying. They understand that people go to Heaven or Hell, but they don’t quite get it yet. They’ve never lost anybody close to them.
How big a toll does it take on your family when your husband isn’t there?
A lot. I have been saying this from the beginning: I have a whole new respect for single moms. It was really hard. I’m so glad he’s coming home! Without my parents, I would have never been able to get through this, and I’ve also got my grandmother, who’s been just phenomenal. I can’t say enough. Last year I had the kids in my class, and they were so good to me. And my friends here at school, the teachers I work with, have been very supportive. Thank God I have these people because some people have no family; they were stationed out here, with just themselves. I don’t know how they do it.
Do you worry about him constantly or just when you’re home?
Well, now it’s different because I know he’s okay. Last year I can remember (I told a lot of my students) that I would get up in the morning and know that I would get through the day because they were good kids, and they kept me busy. And then I’d get out of school and I’d be busy with my own kids.
The hardest time would be at night during family time. Dinner was tough with an empty chair at the table. Family functions were tough; holidays were horrific. Birthdays were torture to me. Our tenth
anniversary, he wasn’t here. You just get through it. Work was what got me through it, and keeping busy with my kids and friends. It’s quiet time when you miss your spouse.
It was very hard, and I am so looking forward to him coming home. He can mow the lawn and everything. The one thing I always complained about was that I had to do the “guy” stuff and my own work, and it was very hard.
When your husband is away, does it bring your family closer together?
It did bring everybody closer because not only did I need their help with the kids, but it was such an emotional strain that I needed them just to be there. You think about what could happen, and you see the news and read the reports, and you want them to be there if you need to cry.
I had to hold it together when my kids were around because I didn’t want them to see me cry. Not that I didn’t, because there were some days when I just couldn’t hold it in. I’ve cried in school, with friends, with students, my family, but it did bring us all closer because they were there as the emotional support I needed. They were the ones who kept me in check when I couldn’t handle it. They took the kids, they made dinner - little things like that definitely brought us closer together.