Deployment Tough on Whole Family

Bags are staged at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cody J. Ohira)
Bags are staged at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cody J. Ohira)

When dad is deployed, family life can be tough.

The balance between commitment to family and commitment to country becomes a little more delicate. The absence becomes a little more raw. The uncertainties become a little more frightening.

Giovanna Roldos is waiting for her husband to return from deployment to Afghanistan. As she waits, her belly grows.

Roldos, 31, is pregnant with the couple's first son. Little Ryan is due in August. His dad, 39-year old Peter Roldos, isn't expected home until December.

"He's physically there, but he's thinking about here. His head is in two places now," Giovanna Roldos said.

Mom stays busy taking care of the couple's Hollywood home and her 3-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. She also attends early childhood education classes at Broward College, and hopes to be a principal one day.

"I'm trying to keep myself occupied so I don't think and be worried all the time," Roldos said.

The couple wasn't planning on having a baby when Peter Roldos and the rest of the reservists of the U.S. Army 841st Engineer Battalion found out they would be deployed in February 2012. The two married shortly before his deployment, and Giovanna Roldos announced she was pregnant just days before her husband boarded a chartered plane, headed first for training in Texas and then across the globe to a rural, dusty region of Afghanistan near the Hindo Kush mountains.

Now Giovanna Roldos, who is also a sergeant in the Army Reserves, goes to doctor's appointments without the comfort of her husband's presence. She keeps him updated through telephone conversations and online video chats.

"Every time I go to the doctor, he's aware. And we talk through Skype, and I send him sonograms of the baby," she said. "He's not present in body, but he's there through technology."

"We also understand that the military, it's not that it comes first, but we signed up for a very important commitment, and we have to honor that commitment," she said.

About 44 percent of military members had families with children in 2010, according to Department of Defense statistics.

Military members, meanwhile, are deploying for longer periods of time than almost ever before. The Department of Defense reported in 2010 that, "of the approximately 1 million service member parents who have ever deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, 48 percent served at least two tours."

Master Sgt. Gavin Sinclair, an Air Force reservist at the Homestead Air Reserve Base, has deployed three times since 2007.

All Sinclair wants is to be close to his two kids, ages 16 and 5. Being together was impossible last year, when he was in Iraq, helping to demobilize and hand over to the Iraqi government what is now Joint Base Balad.

Sinclair's 16-year old daughter, Kourtney, said it isn't easy to watch her father leave. When she talks about her dad's deployments to both Afghanistan and Iraq, she only refers to the faraway countries as "over there."

"When he first leaves, it's really tough on me," Kourtney said. "It's like, 'Oh God, he's over there now. What could happen?' "

Children of reservists can feel especially isolated emotionally and physically because they don't usually live in military communities, according to Department of Defense reports.

The thought of having to celebrate her Sweet 16 birthday while he was still deployed was hard, Kourtney said.

"Sixteen is a pretty big birthday," she said.

It was made even more important when Sinclair, who is divorced, ended up coming home early, and surprising his daughter by picking her up at school shortly before her birthday in November 2011.

"She was walking to the car and she stopped and looked. She turned around and started spinning in circles," Sinclair, 39, remembered. "I was giggling in the car."

He added: "She ran across the street and we hugged. That was one of the best moments I've had since I was deployed."

They went go-kart riding to celebrate.

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