Tag Archive | emergency leave

Deployment: A Family Affair

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As I wrote in my previous post for Blue Star Families, my father-in-law Nick suffered a massive heart attack and subsequently underwent a successful triple bypass surgery.  The initial grim prognosis triggered emergency leave, coordinated and paid for by the Red Cross, for Mark and his twin Matt.  For two weeks, the three of us were the “crisis management team” for the Mayor family: establishing the Nick Mayor Benefit Fund and online donation website, creating and updating our Facebook page, meeting with Nick’s employer and family lawyer, engaging the community and donors, and interfacing with the media to better advertise the fundraiser for the mounting medical bills.  We even organized a benefit event that was a success, considering it was planned in less than a week!  My mother-in-law, Jeanine, held the primary caregiver role, visiting and assisting Nick in the hospital every day.  She is now acting as his in-home nurse and is doing a fabulous job!  We each found our unique roles during this crisis and we couldn’t have gotten through it without working as a team.

Even with a “normal” deployment, it is healthiest for all involved if each party knows their roles.  I feel if the deployed servicemember is in a relationship but is unmarried, roles can be a little more complicated and feelings might get hurt easier.  During Mark’s first deployment (November 2011-April 2012), we were engaged and I understood that I didn’t have a “right” to information or being connected to anything “official.”  Matt was first point-of-contact (POC) for news, and their parents would’ve had the “right to know” before me.  (The military doesn’t care about unmarried significant others!)  But before the deployment began, I had already established open communication with both Jeanine and Matt.  When Mark was in the rollover accident in February 2012, for example, Matt contacted me and told me everything he knew.  Jeanine and I also talked and texted frequently.

Since Mark and I got married at the courthouse before this deployment, I am a military dependent and the first POC now.  However, the lines of communication are still open between his parents and myself, and I understand my responsibility of informing them of vital information.  At the same time, it is important to have boundaries and not be TOO communicative.  Whether the soldier is married or unmarried, feelings of jealousy could arise if one party (the soldier’s partner or parent) is under the impression they are not being properly informed.  As the married spouse, it is also important to know what is okay and not okay to share with your in-laws.  He may not want his parents to know when he is having a rough time, because that could cause them to worry more than is necessary.  However, each family will be different with these boundaries and that is only one example.

In the e-book Everyone Serves (downloadable for free HERE!), there are tips specifically for parents on pages 46 and 53 about handling their relationship and communication with their deployed child.  In many ways, deployment might be harder for the parents than for the spouse because 1) they aren’t as connected to official information, and 2) that tough soldier used to be their baby.  They remember holding him in their arms for the first time, helping him learn how to walk, seeing him off to school….and now that child is grown and holds a perilous job.  As spouses, we need to be a support to our in-laws and to make sure that they feel included in the deployment cycle as proud military parents.

~Malori~

Mark (near) and Matt working in the "Command and Operations Center (aka their parents' living room)

Mark (near) and Matt working in the “Command and Operations Center (aka their parents’ living room)

Army strong, Cav tough!

Army strong, Cav tough!

Nick with his sons and daughter-in-law :)

Nick with his sons and daughter-in-law :)

Saying goodbye at the airport...can't believe they are back in the 'Stan!

Saying goodbye at the airport…sometimes it was surreal being with them during what was supposed to be deployment time!

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to view my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.
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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. (https://www.facebook.com/HelpForNickAndJeanine)

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.

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to read my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.

Military Mondays: Helping a Military Family in Need

Yesterday, Mark and Matt did an interview for Fox 6 News (Milwaukee affiliate), along with Kelly Hetzel, who literally saved their dad’s life at the YMCA. Please see link below to view the video!

Twin Army Captains Rushed Home from Afghanistan After Father Suffers Heart Attack

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