Hitting the High Notes

For all the lip service and late-night thinking I devote tobemoaningthe fact that what's lost in the portrayal of military life is the nitty-gritty nuance that few ever see, I never really do a good job of articulating that nuance myself because it's so complex, and there's so much ground to cover. In fact, I've been working on writing about something I said, and didn't say, at one of our LIVE events.

But this morning via Dawn Patrol, I found an article which does a pretty good job portraying the range of emotions that most military families experience at the outset of a deployment. The pride and the fear, the sadness and the stiff upper lip. The strength.

The child:

In a crowded room at Grand Forks Air Force Base, 45 Grand Forks teachers listened attentively today to a briefing on military deployment.

The young man doing the briefing was in uniform: jeans, a pullover shirt and sneakers.

"I want to talk to you about my dad's deployment," said Kevin Nedegaard, 8, earnest and composed as he read from notes assembled with his mom's help.

"This is how I felt when I found out my dad was going to leave: Sad. Bad. Mad. I felt sad like if a pet died. I felt bad for my dad that he was leaving. I felt mad and frustrated."

The teachers all work at Twining or Carl Ben Eielson elementary schools on base, but most live off base. Tuesday's briefings, by Air Force officers and enlisted personnel and one 8-year-old boy whose father is headed to Afghanistan, were designed to help them better understand the impact of parental deployments.


"What will I do while Dad is deployed?" Kevin asked, rhetorically, in his briefing. "I will miss the fun times. I will do the extra work to help out with Dad's chores. I will try to have fun."I will be the only boy in the house. ... Even my cat is a girl.


The wife:

"He'll be home next January, God willing," said Kathy Nedegaard, who will handle the home front with Kevin and his sisters, Miranda, 17, and Lauren, 16.

"It's frightening," she said. "We know there's danger, and we'll deal with that if it comes. But for now, there's life to be lived. And it's a worthy cause, what he'll be doing, absolutely necessary. Somebody has to do it, so he's doing it."

The mother:

The girls understand "that this is what Dad does," she said. "I think it's been hardest on Kevin. He and his dad are thick as thieves."


The teachers tried on body armor and other combat gear ("I need this for my teachers when I have bad news," a helmeted Twining Principal Barry Lentz said), and they heard from Tech Sgt. Karlyn Beadles about how she handled her deployment and a separate deployment by her husband."I rearranged the living room furniture" while he was gone, she said, and she fretted: "What if I gained 20 pounds, or I lost 20 pounds? Is he going to see that fender I dented? Is he going to want the checkbook back? The TV remote?"

And how would he, the disciplinarian, be with the kids when he returned home?

"He didn't come in all forceful," she said. "He sat back for a few weeks, which probably helped with the kids."

Read it all.

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