Duty. Honor. Country. Our military service members live by these three words. When they deploy overseas, these words help focus them on the mission. Another word, perhaps not spoken at all, is sacrifice. Every time a service member deploys, they are making sacrifices to defend our nation. This decision truly defines what sacrifice is: giving up something valuable for something of greater value – country, brothers-in-arms, and family.
One Reno father, Tyler Smith, served in the Iowa Army National Guard, and deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan. He left behind his wife and 8-month-old son. His story is familiar to many young service members. According to the Department of Defense, there are currently more than two million children that have at least one active-duty parent, the vast majority of which are their fathers.
While deployed fathers know they may have to make the ultimate sacrifice, the guaranteed sacrifice is that of their time. Sacred time. Time spent away from their loved ones, missing birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, milestones, and a critical chunk of their family’s life. It’s time they can never get back.
“I always felt that my wife and I could work through the separation.” recalls Smith. “But being separated from my only child at the time was very hard. Especially when I missed out on all of the ‘firsts’ that occurred while I was gone. I will never get back his first birthday, his first steps, and his babbling that transitioned into words.”
Not much challenges a family quite like a military deployment. The hardship is felt all around, even with a strong support network. For a year, during deployment, family life changed dramatically for Smith and his wife.
“My wife had to juggle all of the family responsibilities and work a full-time job all on her own.” said Smith. “My wife’s support structure not only gave her commonalities with other families, but also allowed her to have an outlet.”
There were times during deployment when Smith was unable to communicate with his wife, in any way, for weeks on end. It was especially important during these times that she had a support network of families that had been through these experiences before.
Even when the deployment ends, the family dynamic for military families doesn’t magically snap into place. “There was a definite growing period that my wife and I had to work through when I returned home,” Smith said. “She had become very self-reliant while I was gone and it took awhile to be worked back into the family routine of sharing responsibilities.”
Smith cherishes his role as father and the opportunity he now has to spend time with his family. He now has two sons, and wants them to realize that his time overseas was something that he did willingly and would do again in a heartbeat, if called upon.
“I would want them to know that a man should stand behind what he believes in and should represent all of the things that he finds good in the world,” Smith said. “Whatever path my sons take in life, I want the same core values that I live by to influence them. My time in the service, including my deployment, exemplify those core values.”