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A day in the life of a Deployment Family


Army.ca Veteran
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Here is a really good article for those who don‘t know what the life of our families are like....
Sorry I don‘t have the link....

A 24-hour log of military families who anxiously mark time for the safe return of loved ones

PETAWAWA -- Home fires burn here 24 hours a day. Canadian soldiers patrol dangerous ground overseas, especially in Afghanistan, while their country gets on with mundane domestic chores. We seem more in tune with the latest American toll in Iraq. Only occasionally do we remember our own. We did last month, when two 3rd battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment soldiers, from CFB Petawawa, were killed by a roadway mine, while traveling just outside the Afghan capital of Kabul. Then, after the funerals, we returned to what we were doing.
But here, on their home base in Eastern Ontario, thoughts of 1,900 servicemen and women in harm‘s way in Afghanistan, and more doing duty in almost forgotten Bosnia, is a minute-by-minute assignment. It‘s the burden of wondering, at all hours, what their loved one is doing, half a world away.
As their children rise for school in homes around Petawawa, our troops in Afghanistan, 91/2 hours ahead of their families, have already finished a half day of peacekeeping.
To feel the heat of those fires, we‘ve chronicled one Monday -- 24-hours, in a soldier‘s watch. As Canadian military families count down a time when their loved ones will be safe at home again, we watch the clock.
- 0100 hrs. (Ontario time): Canadian soldier, Steve O‘Brien, toils in a Kabul base, repairing radios.
He‘s already been up, Afghanistan time, for hours.
Already showered, and worked on communications gear in a Bison vehicle. And already finished a trip to the phone trailer to make one of his two calls a week home to his wife, Cpl. Dana O‘Brien.
They used up about half his 35 minute allotted time.
- 0215 hrs.: Though his wife is still sleeping in Ontario, Steve is sitting down for lunch in Kabul.
He‘ll eat, and watch television, piped in from home.
- 0330 hrs.: Steve is back at his assignment, helping a radar technician with repairs.
- 0500 hrs.: He‘s checking communications gear for faults, and getting ready to clean up for the day.
- 0500 hrs.: Back home in Petawawa, his wife, Dana, 29, wakes up without Steve by her side.
It‘s his fourth tour overseas. But unlike the others, he‘s not only left Dana behind, but a new daughter, 14-month-old Haley.
"It‘s never been this hard before," she says.
"I know he‘s doing important work. It‘s just hard to see him away from our child. Away from us."
The child, still sleeping as Dana feeds Kayla, their Irish Setter/Rottie cross, looks like Steve. At least, to Dana, who last hugged him Aug. 4.
- 0550 hrs.: These days, Dan Hrycyk is playing the role of a single father. His wife, Maureen, is a military police officer, serving in Kabul‘s Camp Warehouse. Married only a year and a half, Dan -- a full-time Canadian soldier -- watches over Maureen‘s nine-year-old son, Kameron.
But not today. Dan is bugging out for manoeuvres. He‘ll be gone in the field for the next five days. When Kameron rises for school at 0700 hrs., it‘ll be his aunt, and her huge white boxer, who will greet him at breakfast.
She‘s left her own toddler at home in Ottawa, to help fill the void left by Maureen‘s leaving.
"People ask, ‘So why aren‘t you over-seas?‘ " says Dan. "They assume it‘s the male who goes."
- 0839 hrs.: Clerk O‘Brien sits at her desk, inside 2 Service Battalion Headquarters, offering fellow office workers homemade cookies. She checks her e-mail, and finds her husband Steve has sent her a complex breakdown -- including a pie-chart -- of how many days he‘s been gone and a countdown to his return.
To her right, is a picture of her and Steve and Haley, before he shipped out. That seems like a long time ago.
- 0930 hrs.: Steve goes to the Jr. Ranks Mess and sits down with a beer.
- 1030 hrs.: He returns to the shop to watch a movie.
- 1030 hrs.: As Steve relaxes in Kabul, Military Police officer, Dan Patrizio, sits down for a briefing. He‘s already eaten supper -- fish and salad. His night shift, on patrol in Kabul, is about to begin.
- 1030 hrs.: At the same time, his wife, Cheryl Patrizio, sits inside her Petawawa home -- a "We Support Our Troops" sign on their maple leaf-strewn front lawn, which looks out onto the Ottawa River.
She‘s at a computer, sending out e-mails.
A former hospital emergency room manager, and more recently the wife of Dan -- they are really newlyweds -- Cheryl is a thorn in the sides of those who may try to shortchange Canadian soldiers. She‘s a poster girl for a new generation of military wives who are not afraid to question authority.
Cheryl, 42, was one of the first to raise alarm bells over the use of soft-skinned Iltis transport vehicles.
She wrote 100 letters to politicians and newspapers.
A month later, when the two soldiers from this base were killed in one, suddenly people were listening.
"I support the work they‘re doing in Afghanistan," she explains, without taking time to sip the coffee she‘s poured. "But we have to speak up for them."
On the wall to the right of her, is a giant world map. A thick black arrow runs from Petawawa to Kabul.
- 1100 hrs.: In a shift which will stretch into the next day, Dan Patrizio patrols Kabul -- especially the embassies -- and the security ring around the camp.
He will also do foot patrols within the camp.
He‘ll do it without marking time.
"No, I‘m not counting the days to my return home because if I do, it will feel like that my tour will last longer," he explains to me.
- 1125 hrs.: As he patrols, his wife Cheryl loads piles of plastic-covered pocket novels and magazines into the back of their family car. She‘s on her way to the base‘s post office, to send them over to the troops.
"We can‘t forget them -- they‘re the ones living in **** ," she says, lugging them out her front door.
- 1320 hrs.: Sebastien Mayeras, a 25-year-old infantryman, catches his breath during an indoor soccer game inside Petawawa‘s Silver Dart Arena.
While many of his fellow soldiers are away, he‘s stayed back here, to help his wife, who‘s been ill.
He‘s been married less than a year.
"It‘s rough," he says of knowing others are away on the mission. "But you‘re where you‘re needed."
- 1400 hrs.: Elana Graham laces up skates, and gets ready to hit the ice inside one of CFB Petawawa‘s twin arenas. The spouse of a soldier in Afghanistan, and a navy lieutenant reservist herself, she‘s organized a team of other wives doing without husbands. The squad includes the wife of a commanding officer in Bosnia.
"It‘s hard doing without your sounding board," the mother of three says, as a group of men clear the ice for the wives.
"The hope is ... things like this may make it easier. That you can be around other women to say, ‘So, did your furnace break down, too?‘ "
- 1435 hrs.: The soldiers are up to their knees in mud, on Petawawa‘s Clement Hill. A new batch of wreckers are trying to pull an armored personnel carrier out of a mudhole the size of a small lake.
This stretch of woods road is usually teaming with trainees, learning how to move military hardware that‘s broken down, flipped over or blown up.
With so many crews overseas, in Bosnia and Afghanistan, these students practically own the hill.
The job is a cakewalk for their 10-tonne tow vehicle -- "Nancy" painted on her side.
In a war zone, these men may do this under fire. The only thing raining down on this class of wet and filthy soldiers is just that -- rain. "If it‘s not raining, we‘re not training," says Cpl. Mike Bidle, as his boots slop through the muck.
As instructors, he and Sgt. Mike Vandepol know these men will likely use what they learn here, in a mission a year from now.
- 1438 hrs.: Cheryl Patrizio signs onto her e-mail.
Waiting for her is a message from Dan.
"I know that as I‘m sitting here, he‘s also over there, sitting down. And safe," she says.
- 1550 hrs.: In Kabul, communications soldier Steve O‘Brien falls asleep, after reading a book.
- 1550 hrs.: Back here in Petawawa, his wife, Dana, rushes from work to pick up their young child from the sitters. Haley is a bit cranky -- annoyed by my looming over her with my camera. She rushes to her mom and snuggles into the softness of her neck.
"Do you know mommy talked to daddy today," she whispers to the child. "He said he missed you."
- 1727 hrs.: Nine-year-old Kameron sits at a table in his room to study French lessons. His mom is in Kabul.
His dad is on manoeuvres in the field. And his aunt, Trish Sauve, is in the kitchen, cleaning dishes.
Many of Kameron‘s school friends know what army life is like. But others, whose parents have more normal jobs, do not. The father of Kameron‘s best friend Mack is a security guard.
"Mack jokes around like all the kids," says Kameron. "They ask if my mom killed any Iraqis today.
"They don‘t know better."
When he gets older, Kameron wants to be a soldier.
On the large wall in his room, his dad has painted a mural of green camouflage -- a protective barrier when Kameron‘s asleep.
- 1850 hrs.: Out of Time is playing at the Cinema De Troyes in Petawawa. The one-screen theatre was named after a 17th century soldier. But locals know it simply as the base theatre.
"It‘s popular with soldiers and families," explains manager Larry Simard. "And when a children‘s show is on, their kids will take up every seat."
In the summer, those 305 seats were often taken up by soldiers being briefed on their tour overseas.
On this night, Larry is upstairs, checking on the large platters of film. Below, most seats are empty.
- 2235 hrs.: Bad news can arrive around the clock -- especially when military time meets civilian hours.
Here, inside Petawawa‘s Deployment Support Centre, televisions scan the latest news. Computers are checked. Calls are made around the world.
Tonight, it‘s quiet. But not for one poor family.
A corporal comes in to report the wife of a soldier serving in Afghanistan has just lost her father.
Garrison duty officer Lieut. Trevor Norton begins a salvo of calls, trying to get the word to the soldier, a duty padre, and now, the distraught wife.
Her children are asleep upstairs from her. She is trying not to wake them at her Petawawa home with tears or the phone ringing.
She wants to know when her husband can come home.
It‘s a decision that‘s not up to the young officer.
"These happen a lot," Norton explains after he hangs up. "Things at home don‘t just stop when you go (overseas). People still live and die back home."
- 2310 hrs.: Inside Petawawa, sits Home Fires Park.
"In honor of those who kept and continue to keep the home fires burning," reads an inscription carved into the side of a large centre rock.
It begins a turning, twisting walkway up a slight hill, toward a gazebo. Smaller monuments line the route.
No one is out on this late Monday, Ontario night.
In Kabul, another busy day is well under way.
Lights reach out from the nearby homes. Together with the street lights and the glow of a clear moon, the words on one of the last Petawawa tributes are as legible as if it were written under a Kabul sun.
"To those who waited," it reads.