At the start of Operation Desert Storm, a young Marine was sent to the fight, leaving behind his wife, son and newborn baby girl. His wife, Susanna Garcia, had to rely on letters and the occasional phone call for the 10-month deployment.
Now, 23 years later, Susanna’s daughter, Samantha, finds herself raising her own two children alone while her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Jared Hoversten, is deployed to Afghanistan.
Although times and technology have changed since Susanna’s husband deployed, countless Marine wives like her daughter Samantha are still coping with the age-old difficulties of a deployed spouse.
More than a month ago, Regimental Combat Team 7 deployed to Afghanistan, and Samantha was left at Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command Twentynine Palms, Calif., with a two-month-old son, Maverick, and two-year-old daughter, Kaydence.
This isn’t the Hoversten family’s first experience with a deployment. Jared, who has been on five deployments total, deployed in 2009 and then again in 2010 when Kaydence was just four weeks old. This time, though, Kaydence is more aware of what’s going on.
“The hardest part has been that Kaydence is older now,” Samantha said. “Our son doesn’t really know what’s going on, which is the same as the deployment when Kaydence was little. But it’s just hard because Jared knows how much he is missing. Yesterday I sent him a video of our son laughing for the first time. It’s just disappointing when he misses that kind of stuff.”
Samantha does her best to keep her husband informed of what is going on back at home as well as send pieces of home to him in care packages.
“It’s only been about a month, and I think we’ve sent like four packages already,” Samantha said. “We send him tons of artwork from Kaydence. I’m always looking up little projects for her to do. We take a lot of pictures and I print them out and send them to him so he can have pictures hanging up in his room. I bake a lot, so I sent him and the guys cupcakes in mason jars and sent him some brownies and stuff like that. We keep sending him all this stuff so it’s a little bit more like home for him and also keeps us busy as well.”
Luckily, thanks to technology, the family can still feel connected beyond pictures and artwork sent in care packages.
“This deployment we’ve gotten really lucky,” Samantha said. “We didn’t get to talk much last deployment, but this time he gets to Skype us pretty much daily because he has Internet in his room.”
During Operation Desert Storm, this daily interaction is something Susanna never experienced while her husband was deployed.
“The distance and tour lengths are basically the same, however communication methods have advanced so much since 1989,” Susanna said. “Back then it was snail mail with an occasional phone call. Money was tight. Our combined income wasn’t very much, so making long distance phone calls wasn’t an option. Now there’s Skype.”
Thanks to Skype, Kaydence’s day is now centered on talking to daddy.
“He calls usually around eight in the morning when Kaydence is just waking up,” Samantha said. “That’s when he’s just getting ready to go to bed. Then he calls again around 1600 our time when he’s getting ready to go to work.”
Even with daily talks with Jared, being apart still takes its toll on everyone in the family.
“Nighttime is really hard,” Samantha said. “Jared put her to bed before. We had a bedtime routine going. After our son was born, I would be with the baby, so Jared would put her to bed. So lately it’s been really hard. She wants to come into my bed. She points to his pillow, and she’ll pat his pillow and start crying.”
Luckily for Samantha, though, she has someone who understands just what she’s going through and is there to help on those extra difficult days.
“During Jared’s first deployment, it was very hard on all of us because I could only visit them on the weekends about once a month,” Susanna said. “On this deployment, I have a full house now. Plus I get to hold my grandchildren every day and kiss them good night each night. I’m here to change dirty diapers, help with their baths and potty training, deal with the terrible twos again and spoil my babies just like grandparents are supposed to. There’s nothing better than having family around you when you have to be separated from loved ones for long periods of time.”
Although deployments never get easier, Samantha has learned that the key to survival is in the day-to-day.
“I just try to take it one day at a time because if you sit there and look at it, a year is a long time to do a countdown,” Samantha said. “We’re trying to get an R and R [rest and recuperation] date so we have something closer to look forward to. Having a countdown to something sooner than next October would be a lot easier.”
Through the remaining 11 months of the deployment, much will happen in the lives of Samantha and her kids. Kaydence will celebrate her second birthday and Maverick will turn one. Christmas will come and go. Samantha will bake goodies and pack countless care packages to send a piece of home to her husband. Kaydence will likely continue to think every Marine in uniform is her daddy. And Jared will continue to accomplish the Marine Corps mission in Afghanistan until he gets to hold his family in his arms again.
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