When my husband deployed to Afghanistan last Thanksgiving for a year with the Navy Reserve, I had no idea how difficult life as a single parent would be. With two very active young boys under 6 years old less than two years apart in age, my closest family on Oahu, and no prior experience as a military wife, I had no clue what lay ahead when we said our goodbyes.
My husband typically has a “normal” job here and before his yearlong adventure, our experience with military life as a family had consisted of having him leaving for one weekend a month and two weeks training per year –very far from combat. Now that my husband and all the men and women he went over there with are back home safely, and I don’t have to ceaselessly scan the papers and Internet for news on Afghanistan casualties, it’s much easier to take a look back over 2013.
The best thing that came out of our experience was a true appreciation for each day we now get to spend with my husband as a family. Just laying on the floor playing Legos, kicking the soccer ball around, going to the beach, or spending time with friends is cherished time that no longer gets taken for granted.
During our year with my husband gone, what helped us the most were the people that supported us along the way. Nerves on edge mixed with countless sleepless nights do not make for a fun, relaxing home, but we did have people that helped shine a light into our world.
Teachers—two sets since the deployment crossed two school years – really helped keep us on track, accountable and motivated. Classroom teachers, music teachers, and Japanese teachers – they became our guides and mentored us in ways that went beyond academics. For the three of us, an integral part of our day-to-day lives over the year were the boys’ coaches. They included: coach Eli in tee ball, soccer coaches Net Payne, Pam Adams, Mara Paio, Esra Lynch, and Malia and Frank Vannatta and Mike Puckett, and for swimming, Maria Lineker and Sarie Imonen, as well as Colleen Patton and Steve Campbell for tennis. International Karate League senseis Scott Nakahara, Earl Yamamoto and Cheryl Kubo also spent many hours with us. Each of them patiently invested their time, skills and expertise in my children when they needed it most – when they had no dad to work with them. The families of team members also welcomed and befriended us.
For me personally, beyond my family and friends who kept us afloat, I am most grateful to the writers, photographers, columnists, lay out team and staff that kept North Hawaii News running. A special mahalo goes to Catherine Tarleton, Melora Purell, Ma’ata Tukuafu, Patti Cook, Karen Rose, Cindy Sweeney, Anna Pacheco, Jock Goodman, Sarah Anderson, Darien Gee, Dr. Shay Bintliff, Angela Thomas, Jessica Young, Au McIntosh, Brenda Jensen, Kelly Roy, Karen Doi, Andrea Jasper, Arlan Vierra, Verna Lee, Tracey Fosso and David Bock. I am grateful to each of them for stepping up when times were tough and for producing quality work each week.
My husband’s coworkers also took the time to check in regularly with us, to write to him while he was in Afghanistan, and to decorate his office for his return.
I am also grateful for all of you in the community who truly cared about us – who took time to ask how my husband and all of us were doing. Living in a close-knit community really helps in times of greatest need.
Thank you, North Hawaii, for being there when we needed you most. May you have a wonderful 2014 filled with joy, peace, love and great friends.
Lisa Marie Dahm
managing editor, North Hawaii News