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Missing Home, Building Relationships
by U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf - September 5, 2016

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The doorknob twists ... and enters a Soldier returning from a hard day's work.

Before he could remove his camouflaged blouse, he is bombarded by his children.

“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”

“The kids run up to me and they try to tell me about their day,” said Sgt. Kye Murray, a Deltona, Florida native and communications noncommissioned officer in charge. “That's one of the things I miss most since deploying.”

The 69th ADA Brigade headquarters deployed to the Middle East in May with a mix of Soldiers whom are veterans of deployments and those who are going through their first. But regardless of how many months they have spent outside the United States, they all find a way to stay connected to their loved ones back home.

July 5, 2016 - U.S. Army Sgt. Kye Murray, a communications noncommissioned officer in charge, holds his pocket photo album at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Murray’s family had photos taken prior to deploying so he would have something to remember them by inside his pocket. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)
July 5, 2016 - U.S. Army Sgt. Kye Murray, a communications noncommissioned officer in charge, holds his pocket photo album at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Murray's family had photos taken prior to deploying so he would have something to remember them by inside his pocket. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)

Murray is currently on his third deployment and through his experience, he says talking too much could make calling home seem like a chore or a task.

“I only talk to my wife and my kids every Sunday on Facetime,” said Murray. “Sundays are the day where the kids can see me and I can see the wife. It keeps the bond strong.”

Of course there are exceptions for holidays, birthdays and even special events such as his daughter's first play. Murray's wife, Ashley, got creative so her daughter will remember the night for a long time.

“My daughter had her very first play and she was very upset that I wasn't going to be there for it,” Murray said. “So I got on video chat with them and during the play my wife had me facing towards the stage.”

“I could see my daughter during the play and she could see my face out in the audience with my face on the screen,” he said. “That helps with missing daddy and helps me with missing all of the firsts.”

While Murray's Family have their own rhythm of communication, other Soldiers are experiencing their first deployment and staying in touch differently.

“We Facetime every night or as much as we can,” said Sgt. Tara Rattanavongsa, a Yeagertown, Pennsylvania native and orderly room noncommissioned officer in charge for the brigade. “That's what we do, and I get a lot of pictures and videos.”

Rattanavongsa is a single mother of a two-year-old boy. Having never spent more than two weeks apart, this deployment will be the longest time the two spent away from each other.

“I'd hear my son wake up and in his crib going “Mom, Mom, Mom,” said Rattanavongsa. “It's weird not hearing him, bringing him to my bed and watching TV in the mornings. That's when I really start to miss him. He is the light of my life.”

Though she doesn't mind being deployed, nothing can change the bond she has with her son.

“I know being away, made me appreciate him more and more,” she said. “The biggest challenge is because he is so small; his attention span is not very good. It upsets me that he would rather be playing than talking to me.”

Since deploying, she reflects on her days back home and plans to focus on spending more quality time with him when she returns.

Both families plan on taking a cruise after their deployment and focus on enjoying spending time together. But until then, there is a mission that needs accomplishing.

“Having my family life squared away really allows me to focus on what I need to do while I'm away “Keeping the relationships healthy makes it seem like time is flying by and alleviates a lot of stress while on duty,” Murray said.

He continued, “Every time I go on a deployment I come back with a much stronger marriage.”

By U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2016

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