BOLESŁAWIEC, Poland — Being away from home can be a challenging situation, especially when there’s 5,000 miles and an entire ocean between you and your family. For Soldiers of the 113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard, no distance can keep them apart from their loved ones.
The 113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment mobilized in early 2022 as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. They are tasked with providing public affairs support to units deployed to Eastern Europe. For better half of a year, the unit has rendered an indispensable service to those working in the region.
However, the distance and time away can take its toll on a Soldier’s morale. To combat this, the 113th keeps in close contact with loved ones back home, regularly receiving care packages and talking through the internet.
U.S. Army Sgt. Tara Fajardo Arteaga speaks with her children and husband on a regular basis.
“When I was deployed in 2010, we didn't have the technology we have today,” said Fajardo. “We had to use phone cards, go to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation tent, and stand in line to use the phone in order to call home. Now, I am able to use my cell phone and I am able to have an internet hotspot with me.”
“As a mother of four kids under eight years old, the separation is hard for all of us but being able to be there for them means everything to me,” said Fajardo. “My kids are too little to be able to write or text, so we have used video chat and it helps me to feel more at peace knowing my littlest ones aren't forgetting me.”
Among those in the unit, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marimar Rivera Medina, first sergeant of the 113th, speaks daily with her spouse, Viviana Velázquez.
“Prior to Marimar’s departure to active duty, we agreed that communication is an essential key if we both wanted a successful long-distance relationship. We both try to communicate daily to ensure we feel emotionally connected. I tried to communicate through text, calling, video, photos, and postcards,” said Velázquez. “To let her know that I’m thinking of her and that I’m committed to the relationship and that I support her and care for her even at long distance. We try to share our experiences of the day at certain times of the day since we are currently on different times zone, she tells me about her morning, and I tell her about my evening. This makes me feel connected to her and that she wants integrate me daily even if I’m not there to share the same experience.”
Some may talk with families more often than others, but keeping in touch and connecting with home is essential to a Soldier's well-being.
“I keep my morale high by thinking of my family, especially my daughter; luckily, the daycare she attends puts photos of school activities daily, making my day every single day,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gabriel Rivera Villanueva, a public affairs NCO with the 113th. “Fortunately, on weekends, the internet in Poland allows us to do facetime on our cell phones, where I get to see my wife, daughter, mother, and grandmother.”
Regardless of the method to communicate with home, the distance, or time of day, the Soldiers always make time to speak with friends and family back home, keeping them at peace and in the loop about what is happening in Puerto Rico.