Deployment and Emergency Leave

Life doesn’t care if you are in the middle of a deployment.  Life doesn’t ask you, “Hey, you think you can handle another HUGE stressor?”  No, life just throws stuff at you and never thinks of asking permission.

I already knew that fact, but nothing could have prepared me for the call I received from my mother-in-law, Jeanine, on Friday, July 12th: “Nick just had a serious heart attack,” she told me frantically.  “He was running at the YMCA and collapsed and passed out.  He’s on the way to the hospital right now.  I need you to call the boys in Afghanistan, I can’t call right now.”

I was then faced with the hardest phone call of my life.  It is the type of call that you hope you NEVER have to make to a loved one deployed to a war zone.  At that point, I didn’t know if Nick was going to survive.  I was sitting in my air-conditioned car, in the parking lot of a wedding reception venue I had just toured, and it was about 2:00 PM.  I signed onto Skype via my iPhone and saw that Mark was online.  I tried calling him but he didn’t pick up.  Thankfully I had Skype credit, so I called his Roshan phone number.  My hands were shaking and my stomach was tight, but I knew I had to keep it together for him.

“Hello?” I heard Mark’s groggy voice on the other end.

“Hey, it’s me, Malori.  Did I wake you up?”  I didn’t want to launch directly into the bad news.

“Yeah, it’s pretty late here, I was sleeping.  What’s up?”  I dreaded this moment, but I had to drop the bombshell.

“Um yeah.”  I struggled to keep my voice steady.  “Your mom just called me, and your dad had a bad heart attack.  He collapsed while running at the YMCA and he’s been taken to the hospital.”

“Oh….oh wow.”  A few moments of silence.  It was awful.  We had a short conversation, and said he would notify Matt.

Halfway across the world, Mark and Matt began dealing with the family crisis.  After talking with Mark, Matt headed over to his TOC (Tactical Operations Center) in the hopes of obtaining more information.  He figured that his dad was at one of the two hospitals in their hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and called St. Catherine’s first.  He was able to talk with an ICU nurse, who confirmed that their father, Nick, was there and had indeed suffered a massive heart attack and was not breathing on his own.

When there is a family emergency at home during a deployment (meaning, serious illness or death of a dependent or parent), the hospital notifies the Red Cross, who then notifies the deployed soldier’s chain of command.  Emergency leave is coordinated, and the typical length of leave is 14 days.  This is what happened for Mark and Matt, because their dad’s prognosis was poor.  Turn-around for their departure was quick, and within a day they were on their way to the United States.

Since Mark and I were legally married at the courthouse before he deployed and his family is considered mine now, I was able to take FMLA (Family Medical Leave of Absence) and vacation time on short notice.  American Airlines is absolutely AMAZING and was very accommodating with flights, and I was able to take advantage of their military rate as well.  I met up with Mark and Matt at the Milwaukee airport on Monday morning, July 15th….and while I wished it was under better circumstances, I will never forget that temporary homecoming hug with Mark.

It has been a VERY long and stressful week and a half, but their dad has been recuperating quite well.  He had triple bypass surgery on Monday, July 22nd, so his heart is healthier than it was before.  The twins and I have been hard at work this entire time, launching a fundraising campaign to avert a financial crisis, as the medical bills are mounting. (

As stressful as this entire situation has been, I feel that it has also drawn Mark and me closer together and strengthened our relationship.  We just have a few more days together, and then the deployment will resume once again.  But we have much to be thankful for.

Mark and Matt with their dad Nick in the hospital.  Army Strong!

Mark and Matt with their dad Nick in the hospital. Army Strong!

Mark and me at Lake Michigan, catching a moment of relaxation.

Mark and me at Lake Michigan, catching a moment of relaxation.

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9 thoughts on “Deployment and Emergency Leave

  1. Emergency leave sucks, but it’s so much better than the alternative. I know your husband has to be glad that he could return home to be with his father during this difficult time. And yeay that you were able to get off work, too!

    I know how hard it is to give your spouse bad news. My husband was away at WLC when his brother (my brother-in-law) died. It was the worst news I ever had to give and I so wish I could have told him in person. He was able to get leave within a few days and we flew from Germany to Texas. It was the longest, most miserable flight ever. I can only imagine how upset your husband probably felt on his trip from Afghanistan home to see his dad. I’m just really glad to hear he’s well on the mend!

    • My employer was SO accommodating, and I’m so thankful for that. It was pretty stressful for Mark and Matt to come back but they handled things very well…their parents are lucky to have such caring sons! I am so sorry about your brother-in-law! :( That is really tough…..

    • Thanks Julie! It was sometimes surreal to have him back, when I had prepared myself mentally and emotionally to not see him for 9 months. But I AM glad he was back for a little bit!

  2. Pingback: Deployment: A Family Affair | Engaged to the Army

  3. Love your blog, may an old crusty Army wife add some more helpful info, (he’s now retired, but still in Iraq with the State Department, go figure?) When an emergency comes up, not only can a Soldier get leave and funds to make it home from the Army, say for instance something happens to the Soldier, a spouse, his or her children, even parents, can get funds from the Army Emergency Relief for travel to where a wounded or ill Soldier is. This is a fund which was begun as a private nonprofit organization. It was incorporated in 1942 by the Secretary of War and the Army Chief of Staff. The AER’s sole mission is to help soldiers and their dependents. Not only are funds available for travel, but there are funds to help with all kinds of things, such as bills and scholarships for education. Sometimes the funds are loans, and sometimes, as in the case of travel due to illness or sickness, the funds are in the form of grants. Hope this might help someone sometime, I am always available to give whatever help I can to any military family. The Army was kind enough to give me a lot of training in Family Readiness, and if I don’t know where to look for help, I know many who I can get you in contact with, who do. Also we run a little retreat for the military and their families at our little ranch, and military and there families stay for free. Happy Soldiering!

  4. Pingback: Deployment: A Family Affair | Living a Warrior Life

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