Fourth grader copes, thrives through constant deployments
April 21, 2011
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - Forty-three percent of active-duty Soldiers have children, and those children face the challenges that go hand-in-hand with their parents' deployments.
For one 260th Quartermaster Battalion Family Member, dealing with her father's constant deployments is an obstacle she has not only dealt with but thrived during.
Christilyn Lapsley is a fourth grade honor-roll student at Pulaski Elementary School; she is a Junior Girl Scout who just received her first three patches; she sings in the school chorus and she is an active member of Savannah Christian Church. At 10 years old, Christilyn has also dealt with her father being deployed for nearly half of her life.
Sergeant First Class Douglas Lapsley of the 260th Quartermaster Battalion has served four deployments, including a humanitarian mission to Haiti with the 10th Transportation Company after the massive earthquake in 2010 and his current deployment to Iraq with the 3rd Sustainment Brigade. When he was sent to Haiti, the Family arrived at Hunter Army Airfield only two months before, from Fort Sill, Okla.
Christilyn is the youngest of Sgt. 1st Class Lapsely and his wife Keisha's three children - she has two older brothers, Marshawn, 14, and Keuntate, 12. The deployments have been difficult for the Family, but Keisha said she sees growth in her daughter's understanding of the deployments.
"I see the transition from when he was deployed when she was little until now and I can see a great growth in her," Keisha said. "She is able to handle it better - she is stronger now. Her grades haven't slipped ... she does like a train and just moves on."
Christilyn says she misses her dad when he is gone, but he calls the Family as often as he can.
"My dad calls a lot and asks how I'm doing," Christilyn said. "But he's coming home soon! I can't wait to have Family night - we're going to watch movies and play games."
The Family has found their way to get through Sgt. 1st Class Lapsely's deployments but, naturally, they wish he was home more.
"It is pretty rough; it seems like every time we are getting settled, he has to go deploy again," Keisha said." It's a lot of back and forth, they [the children] still rise above it but, of course, they really would rather see their dad home more."
In fact, Keisha said that it is her young daughter who helped her deal with the most recent deployments.
"On the last deployment I was in tears but Christilyn came to me and said, 'Mommy, you know what' Everything is going to be alright.' And she just doesn't know what that meant to me."
In addition to deployments, military children also have to deal with constant moves and the changes that come with those moves - saying good bye to friends, being the new kid at school and trying to make new friends every couple of years.
For children like Christilyn, the military has found a way to recognize them for their service - the Month of the Military Child. Since 1986 in the United States, April has been designated as the Month of the Military Child to honor children of those serving our country in the armed forces for the daily sacrifices they make. For parents, seeing their children get some recognition for the daily sacrifices they make is important.
"The Month of the Military Child is awesome in recognizing the children because the children really struggle a lot," Keisha said. "They make it through tough times and they are resilient, but they cry and there are some things that they struggle with. I really thank God for the Month of the Military Child and the people who take the time to help those children though deployments. I think that's really great because [these children] need to know that they are not alone."
For the fourth grader who loves to play outside and watch Sponge Bob, the thing she looks forward to even more than a new episode of iCarly is her daddy coming home.
"My dad's coming home!" Christilyn said, April 12. "I'm so happy; we're going to put a "Welcome Home Daddy" sign on our house, and I'm going to run and hug him."
Just two days later, Christilyn got her wish when her dad returned from his fourth deployment. After numerous flight delays, the Family was reunited at Fort Stewart in the late hours of the night after Sgt. 1st Class Lapsely marched onto Cottrell Field with 300 other Soldiers with 3rd Sustainment Brigade. The Family then made the hour drive back home to Hunter Army Airfield.
This chapter has a happy ending; but the Lapsleys realize they will likely have a similar chapter soon, as Sgt. 1st Class Lapsley has 15 years of active-duty service and plans to serve at least 20 years in the Army. But Keisha knows that her daughter will get through it just as she has the previous four - by cracking a joke to turn sad times into happy moments.