April is the Month of the Military Child where children of our military are honored and recognized for the unique challenges they face and sacrifices they make as their parents serve in the military.
San Antonio natives, Isaiah Garcia, the son of Warrant Officer Yvonne Ralph, a human resources technician assigned to the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is a well-mannered 10 year-old boy whose favorite color is blue, likes to eat Hot Cheetos and enjoys playing basketball, kickball and soccer.
Garcia appears to be an average kid who wants a laser tag birthday party, but instead has moved four times in his mother's seven and a half years of service. He also spent15 months separated from his mom during her deployment to Iraq at the age of five.
"[Isaiah] said 'you're always leaving me mommy, why can't you stay?'" said Ralph, describing their goodbye at the airport when she left for Iraq. "That was the hardest part. That was the worst [plane ride] ever. I cried the whole time."
When his mother is away Garcia does his best to assist his aunt, San Antonio native, Misty Adams, with household chores and the care of his three-year-old special needs sister, Samiya Ralph. They keep in contact with Ralph via telephone, Skype, and email during her absence for training and deployment.
Ralph explains that Garcia experiences difficulties adjusting to new people and has not always gotten along with children from non-military families due to their lack of understanding why he is upset or why he misses his mother.
Garcia said he does not necessarily feel different from children in non-military families, but has different experiences.
Ralph said she thinks even with deployments drawing down that the everyday life of a Soldier still affects children in military families. Since she is always busy, Monday was the first time she was able to have lunch with Garcia this school year.
Ralph also stated moving to overseas assignments are especially hard on military children because they become separated from extended family.
After returning from her 15 month deployment to Camp Liberty, Iraq, Ralph and Garcia moved to Vicenza, Italy. Ralph said it was difficult for Garcia to go from living with his grandmother during the deployment to living overseas away from her.
Though he has experienced many challenges, Garcia does have an appreciation of his mother's sacrifices. He also said that when his mother is forced to miss a birthday due to a deployment or training he is disappointed, but does not feel bad because he knows it is for a good cause.
"You help the family, you help the house and keep everything together," Garcia said to his mother.
Ralph said she believes over the past year they have become closer. This opportunity was not available to them for the past four years because they have constantly been separated due to military schools or training events.
"He's getting older so he doesn't really let me hold his hand, but he let me hold his hand last weekend when we went on a date to Red Lobster," Ralph said with a smile.
Ralph said she has become wiser as a parent since joining the Army.
"Not to say that before I joined I didn't care as much, but because you're always gone you tend to cherish the times that you do spend with them," Ralph said. "I live for them."