What It Feels Like to have a parent in the military

Lena De Vore // As told to Lena De Vore

A newborn stared at a photograph of her father’s face that hung from the top of her crib, creating an unconventional daddy-daughter relationship.

Two weeks after I was born, Dad was sent back on deployment to Iraq. I, a newborn who had barely been held by my father, would grow up with her dad stationed across the Atlantic. The white teddy bear my father gave me would be held tightly in my arms at night.

Once I grew older, I realized why Dad was gone, where he was and what he was doing. It was all so scary to me.

Five years had passed, and Dad’s enlistment ended; I was hopeful. The next few years were full of laughter, hugs, kisses and family vacations. Until he would have to leave again on reserves for another year. Life as the child of a soldier is unpredictable.

After years of constant goodbyes, Dad came back home and life felt normal. During the day, Mom and Dad went to work, and Tanner and I went to school, but at the end of the day, we were in the same place. We had game nights every Friday. We would sit in a circle on the living room floor, listening to mom and dad’s oldies music. Laughter and joy filled the room. Some nights we even played rock band and Mom would film the whole thing on her video camera as if we were really performing.

One day I was getting dropped off by my friend’s mom after running club. I had gone into the house and could feel that something was off. Mom and Dad sat me down on the blue sofa. Things like this did not happen often. I knew whatever was coming was going to be bad.