Deployed couple shares daily challenges, copes with separation from children
August 14, 2013
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Between them, Staff Sgts. Anthony and Stephanie Thomas -- husband and wife assigned to 10th Combat Aviation Brigade -- have seven deployments overseas.
Although they have deployed at the same time once before -- she to Iraq and he to Qatar -- they are currently deployed together, for the first time, at Forward Operating Base Shank.
The couple recognizes the benefits of being deployed together, but the separation from their children -- ages 13, 10 and 2 -- weighs heavily on their minds daily.
The Thomases are assigned to the same battalion and they work on the same base, but their respective jobs have them working opposite shifts. Stephanie Thomas, who serves as supply noncommissioned officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Knighthawk, works during the day. Anthony Thomas, a petroleum supply supervisor assigned to E Company, 2-10 Aviation, TF Knighthawk, works the night shift.
"We rarely get to spend any time together," said Stephanie Thomas. "I see him, but I don't really get to see him."
For the most part, when they see each other, it is when their off time overlaps in the early morning or before Thomas's shift when he comes to visit his wife at her office. But every 14 days, TF Knighthawk Soldiers get a rest day, and the Thomases were able to synchronize their rest days so they could spend them together.
"We normally go to one of the shops to eat, do laundry, see a movie and Skype with the kids together," Stephanie Thomas said. "The reset day is a benefit."
Being able to see his wife, even if it's just one day every two weeks and a few hours each day, is the greatest benefit during the deployment together for Anthony Thomas as well.
It is common for Soldiers to experience stress during deployments, and he said for the two of them being able to talk face to face each day makes a tremendous difference.
When the indirect fire alarm sounds, they worry about each other. They worry where the IDF may have hit and whether it hit in the area where their significant other is working, Stephanie Thomas said.
"I get to know she's OK," Anthony Thomas said. "I can see her and make sure she's all right."
But they agree that the worst part of being deployed together is that they are both away from their children at the same time.
"I think I would feel better if one of us had stayed (with the children)," Stephanie Thomas said. "But with our positions, it just wasn't feasible."
She said the most difficult parts of being away from the children are "missing that time with them; (not) being there for them, their safety; not having that control you had since they were born; missing milestones.
"My youngest doesn't wear pull-ups to bed anymore, and she's learning her ABCs," Thomas said.
Overall, Stephanie Thomas said she thinks the children are handling the deployment as well as they can.
"I think they are doing good," she said. "They understand -- well, the youngest has no idea; she just knows we are gone. We sent her a picture with a voice recorded on it. She runs around the house with it and pushes the button, which tickles her. We talked about it before we left. They're strong. They know we will be back."
Thomas echoed his wife's preference for one of them to have stayed home with the children, adding that he worries about how they are handling the separation.
"I think it's stressful for the kids," he said. "They're getting older now, becoming teenagers, and I think they need us."
The couple first met in 1995 in the Bronx, when Anthony was visiting his cousins, who happened friends of Stephanie. They were soon dating.
Anthony enlisted in the Army in 1997, and when he received orders to Fort Hood, Texas, Stephanie went to the Military Entrance Processing Station and asked to be stationed at Fort Hood before enlisting herself. They were married a few years later in 2000.
Serving overseas has been trying for the Thomases. Both lost their mothers to cancer while overseas -- Anthony Thomas, during his 2007 deployment to Iraq, and Stephanie Thomas when they were stationed in Korea in 2011.
"She watched my kids when I was deployed to Iraq," Thomas said of her mother. "This is a sad deployment, because my mom can't watch them."
The Thomas children are being looked after by a Family Member while their parents are serving in Afghanistan. Stephanie Thomas considered how she was handling the current deployment.
"Some days are harder than others," she said. "I try to put in my mind that I have a job to do; that it's temporary.
"I want people to know I signed up because I enjoy serving my country, although it's difficult leaving my Family," Thomas added. "I want to complete my mission and do my job to the best of my ability and make it home safe to my Family."