Local airman deploys for 6 months; family adjusts

July 29, 2013

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By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

In their 17 years together Nathan and April DeWeerd have become used to being separated because of military service. Nathan was frequently gone during his 13 year career in the Marine Corps. While he did serve a 7-month stint in Afghanistan, much of his time was spent traveling the world on short trips with the president.

In November 2011 he was honorably discharged from the Marines, only to begin a new enlistment with the Air National Guard.

His previous military service brought him all over the world as a member of the elite Security Department of Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which travels with the president; his duty spanned the terms of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Nathan is now part of a contingent of security forces from the 110th Airlift Wing based in Battle Creek that has been assigned to a base in the United Arab Emirates. This week he leaves for Texas and then will be deployed to the UAE, where he will serve as a military police officer for the United States portion of a UAE air base.

While he is gone, life will go on for April and their two children, Christopher, 6, and Laurel, 11-months.

“The hardest part isn’t really him leaving, it’s more of when he comes back,” April says. “Sure, it’s difficult because when he goes we know we won’t see him for seven months. But, when he comes back, the adjustment is difficult for all of us.

“I’ve done this before and I will be fine. But, I feel sad for my kids,” April says. “Christopher is aware that he won’t be seeing his dad for several months and we are already seeing him have a difficult time. But, he does understand his dad is serving his country. I am mostly bummed for Laurel, though and for Nathan not being here for her. There are so many new things she will be doing at this age and things that he will miss.”

One of the saving graces of deployment is technology.

“We are going to be able to FaceTime and text while he is there,” April says. “That is a huge difference compared to even just a few years ago.”

The last time Nathan was deployed, it was a 7 month stint in Afghanistan. Christopher was only 2-years-old and communication was more difficult because of the remote location Nathan was at.

“Christopher relates his dad’s length of time being away to the holidays. He understands that dad will be back around Valentine’s Day but will be missing Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.”

“I feel sad that my dad will be gone for seven months but I am proud of him,” Christopher says.

“This will be the first time Nathan is gone for major holidays,” April says. “Christmas will be difficult but we’ll get through it. Christopher says we can’t have holidays without dad.”

“I’m very thankful for the support here,” April says. “Both of our families are here in Ludington and we have lots of friends. There is also a great support network available on the air base. They are wonderful.”

April says she is relieved that Nathan will not be in a war zone this time. Instead, his role will be to serve as a police officer on the base.

“It’s hard being gone,” Nathan says. “But, the good thing about technology is that my family is literally a screen away. I can’t image how soldiers did this before, even just 10 years ago. They would write a letter and just wait for a response. We bought all Apple devices so we can instantly communicate anytime on FaceTime and text.”

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