Friday, September 12, 2014

TOP STORY >> One family’s first deployment

By Airman 1st Class Cliffton Dolezal
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Spending their last few moments together on the couch, Ashley Smith, wife of Senior Airman Nathan Smith, sits on her husband’s lap and quietly sheds a tear as she buries her head into his shoulder.  

Bags of deployment gear are scattered around the living room, and the couple’s one-month notice of Smith’s deployment had come and gone. They only had a little bit of time left until one of the oldest military rituals would be renewed and Smith would grab his bags to leave for war.

“I’m going to miss him like crazy,” said Ashley. “But I think the biggest challenge is going to be running the house by myself.”
There are many burdens that come along with being a military spouse. Many hardships often go unnoticed until the time comes, and the Airman is called upon to serve their country, leaving the spouse to fill both roles.

“I’m not used to making sure the bills are paid on time, normally he does that,” said Ashley. “Taking out our dog for runs and walks; mowing the lawn; changing the oil in the car; these are everyday things that I’m going to have to add to my daily schedule, and they are things that I’ve never had to worry about.”

This is the Smith’s first deployment. More than a week prior to his deployment, the couple celebrated their third wedding anniversary.

“I remember when Nathan brought home his deployment uniforms, and for the first time, it kind of hit me like this is getting real,” said Ashley.

 The couple made plans to connect via Skype and other means of social media while Nathan is deployed. They also made the most of their last few weeks together by going out and enjoying each other’s company.

“The last couple of weeks we have just been doing things that I know we’re going to miss,” said Nathan Smith, a 61st Airlift Squadron aviation resource manager. “I’m going to miss Ashley more than anything while I’m deployed.”

As the morning of the inevitable approached, the couple woke early and made the most of their last morning together. While enjoying their pancake breakfast, they laughed and talked about things they were going to miss and things that they looked forward to once Smith returned.

With Smith’s bags packed, a last hug and farewell were in order for his dog Kuzco. 

“Nathan loves that dog more than me,” said Ashley jokingly.

It was a somber moment between a man and his best friend.

With their Toyota Camry packed and ready to go, they headed to the base passenger terminal.

Once Smith arrived at the terminal, the weariness of preparation had set in.  Many Airmen chatted in small groups trying to keep their minds off of their destination while others took the opportunity to relax or meditate. Although Smith knew this was his last stop, he was ready for what was ahead. 

An Airman walked into the room and announced that the busses were ready to load.

Not knowing what lie ahead of him, Smith expressed that he was looking forward to taking the next step in his Air Force career. Although distressed about leaving his wife, he wanted to make the most of the deployment opportunity that was tasked to him.

“I’m going to miss coming home and just having someone to talk to,” said Ashley. “I love him and I don’t know what I’d do without him.” 

Smith is scheduled to be deployed on a six-month tour to support contingency operations in Afghanistan. 

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