Mom of five copes with deployment through Army's help
May 6, 2009
With five kids to watch over, Yashica Smith doesn't have much time to miss her husband.
But sometimes, the chaos of a busy household actually makes her miss him more.
"He's not just a Soldier. He's a dad, a husband. He's everything to us," Smith said.
Smith is the wife of Capt. Michael Smith, a Reserve Soldier who deployed in January to support the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq.
It is the couple's second deployment.
"The first time he deployed, I was excited. My husband was actually going to serve his country. I was proud," Smith said, referring to his 2005 deployment.
"The second time I felt lost. I felt like a brand new Army wife. I think my insecurities really came out because we had two new infants to care for."
Together, the couple have three children - Ben, 15; Miya, 13; and Michaela, 10; one adopted daughter, Monae, 1; and one foster child, Jay, 2, who they hope to adopt soon.
Though she is a Reserve military spouse, Smith fully understands the struggles, challenges and opportunities of active duty military spouses. She grew up as a military child, and has been a military spouse since 1990. When Michael Smith is not deployed, he works in the project management office for Cargo Helicopters, Acquisition Branch on Redstone Arsenal. He is also a Reservist with the Reserve unit stationed on the Arsenal.
"Michael is a man of many hats. He is really committed to any job that he has, be it military or civilian," Smith said. "He didn't want to go on this deployment. But he felt he had to go to serve his country and to help other Soldiers. He has always been compelled to help others."
Smith has seen the Army grow in its concern and care for military spouses and families. She has been active with the Arsenal's Waiting Spouses program and is on the Waiting Spouses e-mail list. Smith often gets calls from Military One Source and she received assistance from the American Red Cross during the deaths of her grandparents. Her children have participated in programs offered by School Age Services and the Youth Center, and she takes the two younger children to the Arsenal library every week. The family plans to purchase a swimming pool membership on the Arsenal this summer. They shop at the Post Exchange and Commissary.
"We use everything there is to utilize on the Arsenal," Smith said. "A lot of Reserve wives don't know what they can use or what they can do on the Arsenal. But my military background has helped me with that."
As a frequent visitor to Redstone Arsenal, she is looking forward to taking advantage of the special discounts and activities planned for Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
Twenty-five years ago, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation officially recognizing Military Spouse Day. The commemoration is held the Friday before Mother's Day every year to show appreciation for the sacrifices of military spouses. After almost a decade at war and multiple deployments, active, Reserve and National Guard spouses continue to unconditionally support America's Army.
In 2007, the Army, through the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, instituted the Army Family Covenant and the Army Community Covenant, to recognize the commitment and increasing sacrifices Army families make every day and to acknowledge that the strength of Soldiers comes from the strength of their families.
Today's Army spouses are community leaders, careerists, mothers, fathers and Soldiers. According to Army statistics, about 59 percent of enlisted spouses and 28 percent of officer spouses are under age 31. About 56.3 percent of Soldiers are married with 8.7 percent of Soldiers married to another servicemember.
Smith appreciates the support she receives from the Army. She is also appreciative of the neighbors who often come to her family's aid, especially Army retiree John Smith who has taught her son Ben how to use a weedeater and has offered to give him driving lessons.
Smith also relies on the support of her church, Union Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. Her faith keeps her strong.
"I do a lot of praying," she said. "I thank God for my neighbors, for my church family and even for the strangers who don't know me but who want to help.
"I'm proud to be the wife of an American Soldier. We are a fortunate family that has a lot of support."
Smith was born and raised at Fort Rucker. Her husband was also raised in the military. The couple were high school sweethearts. She has lived the changes that the Army has made in support of spouses and families.
"To me, the Army is giving military spouses and their families a lot more support today than they did when my mom was an Army wife," Smith said.
But that support can't erase all the challenges Smith must face while her husband is deployed.
"Michael was really our rock when he was home. He would get the kids to all their activities," said Smith, referring to their older children's sports and church programs.
"With him gone, I'm just so busy there just isn't any stopping moments in my day. It's hard. But I don't want to burden Michael with that. When your spouse is so far away in Iraq, you just don't want to complain to him about things. You want to be upbeat."
On the plus side, the busyness of family life keeps Smith from spending too much time contemplating her husband's deployment and the risk involved in serving in Iraq.
"If I didn't have the children, I'd be a wreck," she said. "I'd always be worrying and my hair would fall out."
The family communicates with their Soldier daily by Internet and instant messaging. Each has their own way of coping with their Soldier's deployment. While mom stays busy with managing the household and the two youngest children, Ben deals with dad's absence by playing basketball, Miya spends time alone in her room and Michaela concentrates on improving her gymnastics skills.
"They've learned how much they miss their dad," Smith said. "You don't miss your water until your well runs dry. Sometimes we take things for granted. The children see how much harder it is for us to stay organized and to do things when he's not here. He's the missing link of this family. They've learned to help out. They'll tell me 'I got your back, mom.'"
The family does escape from the loneliness of missing their Soldier by taking short trips away from home to see an attraction or to visit relatives and friends in Enterprise.
Smith has also learned to accept help where it is offered.
"So many people want to reach out and help," she said. "We need to use that support. If someone tells me they will help, I will take them up on it. Now, I do ask and I do expect. I've learned it's OK to ask people for help."
Smith said it is important to stay connected to other military spouses, even if it means joining a military spouse support group online.
"You need to find somebody else to connect with who will keep you on the right path and who understands what you are going through," she said.