Military families have always faced challenges. None quite as
demanding as a combat deployment. While combat is the Soldiers'
mission alone, deployment is a family endeavor.
Rachelle Witherow have been married for 13 years and have three
son's ages six, ten and 12. Bryan is a U.S. Army Reserve staff
sergeant who has been serving for eighteen years. Rachelle is a USAR
sergeant and has been serving for four years. They are also both
full-time Civilian Military Technicians with the 88th Regional
Support Command on Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
April 3, 2015 - U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Rachelle Witherow with her
husband, U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sergeant Bryan Witherow and their
three sons after Rachelle's promotion ceremony at the 88th RSC
Headquarters on Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. (U.S. Army Reserve photo
courtesy of Sgt. 1st Class Corey Beal)
“Joining the military was something I had always wanted
to do,” Rachelle said, “and I kind of let his career go
first and then I finally got the opportunity.
a tough decision to join the military while the children
were small, but I also wanted my kids to realize that they
needed to be able to follow their dreams no matter what.”
As challenging as it can be to balance two jobs, two
military careers, three children, homework, sports practice
and monthly battle assemblies, this family has now accepted
the opportunity and responsibility of serving their nation
While Sgt. Rachelle Witherow will be going
overseas in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel as an
ammunition sergeant with the 395th Ordnance Company out of
Appleton, Wis., later this year, her entire family faces the
challenge of deployment.
“I figured at some point I
would deploy. I came into a training unit to start with so
it wasn't really an immediate concern,” Rachelle pointed
out. “But getting promoted into an actual line company, as
soon as those orders hit it was ‘alright, this is possibly
go time,' it can happen at any point now.”
this will be the first deployment for the Witherow family,
military service has been a part of their lives from the
beginning. Bryan was already a member of the Army Reserve
when he and Rachelle married and their boys have grown up
with military service, yearly training and monthly battle
assemblies as part of their daily lives.
“I was at
my annual training in March and we had a soldier fall off so
they decided they needed another NCO to step up. So I
stepped up right then. It was another two weeks before I was
back home with my family to talk about the deployment.
“It was almost easier to accept the news because I was
in a military environment, in uniform, in a military state
of mind during that period of time. Making the phone call
and letting my husband know, I mean, that wasn't easy, but
we kind of had a feeling that it was coming.”
has concerns about Rachelle's deployment, but he explained
why being in the Army Reserve himself has helped him
understand the process.
“I think it's difficult as a
husband knowing that your wife is going over,” Bryan said,
“but being a soldier and going through some of the same
stuff myself, I get it. So I think it makes it easier on me
as a spouse.
"So like some of the challenges and the
questions and the worries a spouse might have that's not in
the military - a lot of those you already know the answer to
so it's not as taxing on me emotionally. You know what's
designed and what's in place to keep your Soldier safe.”
Despite the concerns they both have, Rachelle said that,
for now, her excitement has overruled her fear.
hard to say it. There's a part of me that's excited,”
Rachelle admitted. “I mean this is something we've trained
up to do. This is what we signed up to do. To go and do what
the Army needs us to do. As a Soldier, I'm excited to have
the opportunity to lead other Soldiers and have this
opportunity. I'm not going to lie, I'm a little scared. It's
the unknown. I've never been there before, so,” Rachelle
When asked how she handles the
transitions between being mom and Soldier, Rachelle
responded quickly, comparing it to flipping a switch back
and forth. She also explained how being a mom helps her in
“It's a totally different ballgame,”
Rachelle stated. “You put the uniform on, you leave the
house to go do even just a battle assembly weekend and you
got your game face on. At the same time, I've got younger
soldiers under me and it's almost like being mom all over
“As an NCO, being a mom helps, I have a little
more patience. I feel protective of the junior Soldiers. To
know that I can make a difference in their lives just like I
can with my kids because they are younger and still
learning. The youngest Soldier deploying with me is 19.”
Rachelle went on to explain how despite the challenges
their family will face and the distance that will separate
them, her children are prepared - and proud.
“Missing birthdays and stuff like that has been harder,
especially for my older son. This will be my third time
missing his birthday since I joined the Army,” Rachelle
said. “But for the most part they are proud of it.
“We have our countdowns that we do and everything. They are
pretty resilient. They seem to get through it pretty easy.
Just keep them on schedule.”
Rachelle shared her
children's ideas of what Reserve service entails and
questions they have asked.
“They're boys, so they
ask things like ‘are you going to go play with guns this
weekend?” Rachelle said. “I think being around it their
entire lives with their dad being in the service, it's just
a way of life for them.”
“I think it's cool and all,”
their oldest son said. “But since she's going to be
deployed, I'm going to miss her because it's going to be a
long time that she's going to be gone and I don't know
exactly what's going to happen there.
“I'll keep in
touch with mom by letter,” her middle son added, “maybe by
FaceTime like at night before I go to bed or right away in
the morning or maybe if mom has her phone and is able to
“For now, I try my best to help her out around
the house,” he continued. “I'll have to help my dad keep an
eye on my brothers while mom's gone. Make sure that stuff is
Their youngest son offered up his opinion of
mom and dad's uniforms.
“Mom is awesome in her
uniform,” their youngest son said grinning, “and my dad is
pretty cool because he has a new uniform.”
seriously, he added, “Soldiers shoot, they protect us from
the enemy soldiers.”
Then he asked his mom a tough
“Are they trying to kill you guys?” he
Rachelle answered, “Depends on how bad they
Rachelle paused and sat quietly with her
youngest son on her lap for a few minutes before continuing.
“I think Bryan's main concern is just making sure
that the kids are taken care of, being there for them as
much as possible,” she said.
“He has training to
attend right after I leave so his mom is coming to stay with
the boys for a few weeks and going to stay and help out for
the holidays. We have a few closer friends here but we are
not from this area so we have to kind of find those people
you can really trust especially in this type of situation.
“It actually makes us stronger. We have had to lean
on each other and not on the rest of the world to hold us
up,” she said. “We have had to hold each other up. We have
been away from home, in Washington state, for almost 9 years
now. Knowing where we were then versus where we are now,
knowing what we can do that we never thought we would be
able to, you know, because we've had to just do it.”
Their oldest son spoke up again and said, “I think it's
kind of emotional because I've never gone through this part
before, the overseas part. But I'm also used to it because
dad has always had to leave for military stuff, too.”
“One of the biggest things,” Bryan added, “is that we
are proud of her. Proud of what's she's doing.”
By Catherine Threat
U.S. Army 88th Regional Support Command
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