Vilseck spouses earn Freedom Team honors
VILSECK, Germany — Tiesha Saldana smiled proudly as her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Armando Saldana, attached a gold "Army spouse" pin to her sweater and handed her a "Freedom Team" certificate Thursday at Vilseck’s Memorial Fitness Center.
Tiesha Saldana was one of 1,700 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment spouses recognized for their work on the home front while the unit was deployed on a 15-month mission to Iraq from 2007 to 2008.
Freedom Team Salute is an Army program that, since 2005, has recognized spouses, veterans, parents and employers for their support, according to the program’s Web site. The decision to thank all 2nd Cav spouses at once made Thursday’s ceremony the largest to date, according to Freedom Team Europe liaison Richard Breen, a former soldier whose wife serves with the Army in Vicenza, Italy.
"As an Army spouse myself, I know how important it is that the spouse is a combat multiplier," he told 2nd Cav soldiers and spouses. "While the Army can recruit the soldier, we must also retain the family. The health and welfare of the family is clearly a readiness issue."
Col. John RisCassi, 2nd Cav commander, said his unit could not have succeeded in Iraq were it not for the support of families.
"On behalf of every Dragoon, I thank you," he said. "Thank you for taking care of our children and our homes and supporting each other."
Armando Saldana, who served with 2nd Cav’s 4th Squadron, said it was reassuring to him to know that his wife was looking after their two boys, Armando, 13, and Elijah, 8, during the deployment.
The care packages his wife sent downrange — including tuna, candy, cakes and Kool-Aid — were something to look forward to, along with phone calls home, he said.
"That stuff let me focus totally on my mission as a platoon sergeant," he added.
A spouse’s life during deployment is "hard and lonely," Tiesha Saldana said.
"You have to be a mom and a dad. You have to be the disciplinarian and try to be a friend. The kids have to figure out which role we are playing at that time."
She said her husband has deployed three times, but the Freedom Team Salute was the first official recognition she had received.
"The recognition makes us all feel that our job is worthy," she said.
For more information on the Freedom Team Salute program, visit www.freedomteamsalute.com/about/about.aspx.