CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo (Oct. 22, 2022) – For a mother, leaving her daughter behind when getting deployed is heartbreaking, but leaving for deployment and seeing your daughter leave for a separate deployment is even harder. For Sgt. 1st Class Shannon Riddle, deploying simultaneously with her daughter, Spc. Mackenly Riddle, has been an overwhelmingly humbling experience.
Shannon started her military career in 1992 when she enlisted in the Marine Corps. She was a member of the band and would perform for Marines graduating from recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. For her second four-year term in the Marine Corps, Shannon was a combat engineer. After serving eight years, she took a six-year break in service, where she found herself working in law enforcement. In 2006, she decided to continue her service and join the Virginia Army National Guard.
She has been in the Virginia National Guard for more than 16 years, and has deployed twice throughout her career, first to Iraq and currently to Kosovo.
“I joined the National Guard after I ran into a friend of mine that I served in the Marine Corps with who was still in the Marine Corps,” said Shannon. “He was in Fallujah when it fell, and he asked me where I was, and I felt really bad that I wasn’t there. So a week after, I went and talked to the Guard recruiter, and within about a year after, I became an MP and ended up in Iraq.”
During her first deployment, Mackenly was only 12 years old. Shannon recalls how hard it was to be away from her young daughter during the deployment.
“It was hard being away from home while being a single mother. Mackenly stayed with her grandparents,” said Shannon. “It was good coming home because being away from her was hard.”
As for any family with a deployed loved one, the family endures those feelings that come with a deployment, as well. Mackenly was proud of her mother and looked up to her. She grew up in a military family due to her brother and Shannon’s husband serving in the Army also.
“I’ve always looked up to my mom growing up. I remember her being deployed for the first time. My sister and I would make care packages for her that we would send over,” said Mackenly. “We made a Build-A-Bear in a military uniform that she kept with her. She ended up giving it to me to take on my first deployment, so it was like having a piece of her with me over there.”
After coming home from Iraq, Shannon became a recruiter for three years. During that time, Mackenly decided she wanted to join the military. So like any mother, Shannon looked out for her daughter’s best interest and suggested she join the Army National Guard. When Mackenly decided to join, her mother was the recruiter who enlisted her in the military.
“My mom and I always bumped heads, and I remember being in her office telling her I wasn’t going to join,” said Mackenly. “It was ironic because I never saw myself being in the military, but after being at college, I felt like I had a greater purpose in life. I ended up calling her, saying I wanted to join. You can say my mom was a big part of the reason I joined.”
Mackenly initially enlisted as a motor transport operator and later changed her military occupational specialty to combat medic. Shannon serves with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Virginia Army National Guard, while Mackenly serves with 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, Virginia National Guard and was attached to the HHC, 116th IBCT for her deployment. This past year elements of the 116th has deployed to support ongoing operations in Africa, Kosovo, and Iraq. Mackenly went to Africa as a line medic in support of Soldiers there, and Shannon deployed to Kosovo as the battle desk non-commissioned officer in charge.
They both expressed that they worry about each other and miss each other very much. Both are used to missing each other while the other is away, but in this case, they are both away from home.
“My mom has shown that she can handle her own, but that didn’t stop me from worrying about her being deployed,” said Mackenly. “She was always with me while I was overseas through the St. Michael necklace she got me for my birthday and the build-a-bear that I kept on my bed every night. “
Just as Shannon did when she was 12 years old, Mackenly had to leave behind her daughter Carson while she served her country.
“I have a little five-year-old girl back home, and it was the hardest decision to make volunteering for this deployment. She would send me drawings in every care package that I would end up hanging up in my room,” Mackenly said.
For many families having one Soldier leave on deployment is hard enough, but two Soldiers, leaving behind children is exceptionally harder and is commendable.