Military Family Intel
Interviews by Howard Leff
Photos by Natalie Stephenson
Military service can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime. With a spouse and family, however, things can get complicated. Time away, worry of a loved one in harm’s way, single parenting for extended periods, are all concerns that are unique to these families. Bend Nest caught up with four stellar Central Oregon military families that are up for doing whatever it takes to hold down the fort at home while supporting their loved one as they serve our country.
Can you describe what it’s like serving as an Army dentist?
I feel fortunate. I mean how many dentists get to fly into the jungle of Honduras on Chinooks for humanitarian missions, or ride Humvees, or fly on Blackhawks with night vision through Iraq to treat soldiers with dental needs, and have combat medical training? These experiences are one of a kind, but the best part is the friendships and camaraderie that last a lifetime.
How does your service abroad impact your family life here?
My second mobilization was to Honduras in May through August of 2014. I had two daughters, then, ages 4 and 18 months. It was a much shorter mobilization the second time around, but with two young children at home it had a bigger impact on my family life. My husband had become a single parent, who was also running his own business, overnight. We made it through with the support of our community, our family, friends and work.
How does your family adjust during the times when you’re away?
My husband does an amazing job juggling everything back home. The girls definitely miss their momma a lot, but he makes sure that they have everything they need and constantly lets them know that we love them and they are taken care of. Our extended family also has helped us tremendously. But beyond family, we have the greatest network of friends and co-workers who were constantly checking up on my husband and the girls, helping out with meals and playdates, while keeping them company and sending me pictures of the family.
What advice do you have for other parents in Central Oregon considering military service?
Military service can provide incredible job training, teach discipline, be adventurous, give structure and comrades to a lot of people. However, if you do have a family and are considering the military, I would tell parents to surround themselves with a supportive community network within the military structure as well as outside.
Anything else you would like us to know?
If you know someone who is getting deployed or who is deployed, help support their families. There is nothing more reassuring for me than to know that my family is being taken care of. It allows me to do my job the best that I can.
Justin Lappe — Marine Corps
Can you briefly describe your past and present military service?
I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve immediately after high school. After earning the rank of Sergeant and deploying to South America in 2004 and then Iraq in 2005, I applied to become an officer in the Marine Corps. I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on active duty in 2006 and remained on active duty until 2012. I have since returned to the Reserve Force where I serve as the Reserve Support Officer for Recruiting Station Portland.
What effect does the service have on your family life here in Bend?
My wife and I were active duty during the early years of our marriage. She had our first child while I was deployed and she was active duty. We were actually married for 18 months before we moved in together. These aspects of military and family life have been difficult for us but has made our marriage and family stronger.
How do you handle being away from your family during this time?
We always remember that we’re working towards a greater goal than ourselves. When you’re deployed with 36 young Americans—they have been entrusted to you—you owe them your full attention. Your family comes second. Once you hit a point where your family becomes the priority, it’s important that you transition out of the military so you can give them your full attention.
Jesse Blythe National Guard
What adjustments do you need to make?
While I am called away for about six weeks a year, now it is all stateside. However, it still can be difficult on my wife and five children. We try and do something special before and after I get back. It’s important for me to know that they know they are still my priority, but I do have other obligations.
What advice would you give to other members of the military going through similar situations with their families?
Your spouse needs to know the strains that occur to the marriage as you execute your military obligations. You need to anticipate that and get ahead of them! You need to respect that it is difficult for one of you to be away from the family and respect that it is difficult for the other to be with the children.
Can you tell us a bit about your service in the Oregon National Guard? How often are you away from Bend?
I’ve had the honor of serving in the National Guard for a little over seven years. A lot of soldiers like me have traveled all over the world for training including places like Thailand and Oman. I deployed once to Afghanistan from 2014 to 2015. The National Guard has a dual mission—state and federal. I have been activated to help with the flooding in Burns, Oregon. I am usually gone for training one weekend per month and three weeks in the summer.
How does being away from home affect both you and your family?
The deployment was definitely hard on both my wife and me. In my opinion, she had the much harder job while I was deployed. Not only was she my rock and support, but she kept the house in order and safe, while raising two kids by herself. Then there is the stress that it puts on the parent at home knowing a wife or husband is deployed in a combat zone. There were moments overseas when we would have emptied our savings account to fly across the world to hold each other and the kids for just 10 minutes. As a family, you learn how to survive. Love and patience is key.
What steps does your family take to adjust?
My family takes many steps. My son has a soldier doll with an actual picture of me in uniform on it. He usually sleeps with it while I’m gone. Also, there are books online that give you an opportunity to pre-record a story for your kids. These are very helpful. A funny side note: I am a very picky eater especially at dinner. My wife always says it’s a good break for her while I’m gone and she doesn’t have to cook so fancy.
What advice might you have for other families confronting these same issues?
Make sure to spend quality family time together leading up to a deployment or weekend training. Put away the cellphones and just concentrate on your kids, wives and husbands. Nothing else in the world matters at that moment in time. Whether it’s an extra story at bedtime, or bringing flowers to your wife at work, always make your loved ones feel special.
Robyn Loxley — Army
Both you and your husband served in the military. Can you briefly describe your roles?
My husband and I served in the United States Army with a Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) of Psychological Operations (PSYOP). We met prior to deploying to the Al Anbar Province of Iraq in 2008. During our time in country we were deployed to support a variety of groups (Marines, Special Operations, Army, Aviation, etc.). Being away for the year-plus that it takes to deploy and then redeploy was hard on all family members and exceptionally hard on my husband (who was injured and medically evacuated out of country).
How do you coordinate all of this while tending to family at the same time?
Tending to family was difficult throughout our whole military experience. After leaving Iraq we were caught in a custody/parenting time struggle that seemed endless and impossible when fought from a distance—we had two older children who were located in Illinois. A lot of communications went down over phone, text, mail and eventually FaceTime. I learned a lot about the strength of love during these times of distance.
How does your service affect other family members?
I feel that our children are proud of our service. They have written papers, done school projects on the subject, and our eldest is currently considering an enlistment of her own through University of Oregon ROTC program. Not long after my first deployment to Kosovo in 2003, my younger brother enlisted and has since reached great heights within the Army’s Special Forces community.
What sacrifices must you make in order to
If this question is about tending to family, then the response is simple—whatever it takes. We are lucky to have both served our time honorably and have been able to go on to other life adventures.
What are the rewards?
The greatest reward is knowing that we are home safe and that our family and friends are safe as well—thanks to our sacrifice and that of others still out there doing it in our stead.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
We feel very blessed to live in Prineville—which is chock full of resources and supports for veterans. We would also like to encourage community members to either volunteer with or donate to local veterans’ organizations.