Monday, July 02, 2007

Dads celebrate Father’s Day far from home

Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. PAO

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq – Deployment is hard on any Soldier, and a 12-to-15 month tour can strain a marriage.
But what can make it even tougher on troops is missing their children, and Father’s Day can be a reminder of just what they’ve left behind.
“The hardest thing about this whole deployment is being away from my kids,” said Maj. Kenny Mintz, the operations officer for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
“They’re young and impressionable and innocent,” Mintz said, “and missing a whole year of that is a tremendous sacrifice. No amount of wealth or glory or honor can compensate for that.”
Mintz, a native of San Diego, Calif., has four children, ranging in age between five and ten, and he is very close to his family, he said.
“It’s a tremendous sacrifice for any parent.”
Sgt. Jonathan Kirkendall, a native of Falls City, Neb., and the projects manager for the 2nd BCT, married recently; his wife has two children, aged seven and 10, from a previous marriage, and the Kirkendalls recently had another.
“They realize what’s going on,” Kirkendall said. “It’s taking a toll.”
He spent a lot of his time on his two weeks of leave with the children, he said.
“I took Kyra shopping when I was home, and let her paint my fingernails and put makeup on me. I don’t mind it – I just won’t get in a dress,” Kirkendall said, laughing. “Jadyn, the baby – I just lay on the couch with her and watched her throw up on me.”
Kirkendall’s family sent a Fathers’ Day package for him, he said, with an embroidered blanket and a card.
“I love being a dad,” he said. “At first I didn’t want kids until I was 30 or so. But when I got to know Cody and Kyra, I realized I love kids. It’s hard to be away from them, Cody especially – we both love video games, and I try to take him fishing. The hardest part is I’ve only seen Jadyn for two weeks, and she’ll be a year old when I get home. The last time I saw her she would fit in a shoebox, and now she’s crawling.”
Sgt. 1st Class Steven Trayah, a native of Georgia, Vt., and the collections noncommissioned officer in charge, has two children, a son of 15 and a daughter of 12.
“I’m doing the Fathers’ Day video teleconference,” Trayah said. “They sent presents that I will open during that so they can see my reactions.”
The younger Trayahs are used to his deployments, he said.
“It’s all they know, really,” he said. “They accept it; they don’t necessarily like it, but they know it’s what I do…I’ve been on four deployments. And it gives them some different experiences, different places, and coping with difficult situations.”
Seeing his family over the VTC doesn’t make him any more homesick, Trayah said, but Mintz feels otherwise.
“I think the video teleconference makes it harder – it’s harder on me, anyway. Part of me thinks I should do it, but part of me doesn’t want to face them. It’s hard to see them and be 8,000 miles away.”
Fathers’ Day is difficult for him, he said, but may be more so for his family.
“I’ll be fighting the war like every other day. But they might actually stop and think about me being gone.”
“I’ll call home and talk to the kids, if they’re not too busy – they’re always doing something,” Mintz said, smiling. “Anytime I call, I hear a ruckus in the background.”
War doesn’t stop for Fathers’ Day, but those troops with children at home still may feel an extra ache in their heart.
“It’s a tremendous sacrifice for the families and the service member,” said Mintz. “This way of life is a constant reminder of what we’re fighting for, a better world for my kids, and hopefully, a safer world.”

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