Father's Day highlights how much deployed dads miss kids
Stars and Stripes June 15, 2003
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — It is Capt. Charles Lunkwitz’s first Father’s Day, but he is thousands of miles away from his 11-month-old daughter, Ann Marie Hess.
Deployed to Bosnia with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment, he is missing all the important little things in his baby’s life — her first steps, potty-training.
The situation is not any better for parents of older children.
Sgt. Maj. Jim Brown of the 35th Infantry Division has missed the eighth-grade graduation of his youngest daughter, Kelsey, 13, and basketball state playoffs that his older daughter, Jami, 17, was in.
He tried to be there, like every year before, by linking up via video teleconferencing, but it was not the same as physically being there, Brown said. He is also missing his first grandchild, 11-month-old Khaiden, from his son, Michael, 22.
It is the first time these fathers have left their children behind to go on a long deployment and do their Army duty.
Sgt. 1st Class Willbaldo Molinar has taken care of his daughter, Victoria Ann Lorraine, 9, alone since she was a baby.
“Leaving her behind is the hardest thing I ever did,” said Molinar, also with the 35th Infantry Division.
Knowing that their children’s mothers, grandmothers, aunts are taking care of them helps, but does not make it any easier.
While it is tough to be separated every day of the deployment, this is not their first time to be away on that special day. They have spent most previous Father’s Days in the field, doing their Guard duty.
“This year’s will be harder,” said Sgt. Christian Cordell of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 35th Infantry Division, father of Star, 9; and two sons, Johnathon, 5; and Griffin, 4.
But not all the fathers deployed to Bosnia will spend their special day away from their children.
Maj. Michael Roberts of the 35th Infantry Division is taking advantage of a pass to go to Budapest, Hungary, where he’ll meet up with his 10-year-old son, Bradley. It will be Bradley’s first long trip; he’s coming from Lee’s Summit, Mo., to join his dad.
“He’ll definitely remember this one,” Roberts said. “I will, too.”
Others rely on good old-fashioned phone calls, or the more modern version of video teleconferencing to share moments with their children.
The soldiers try to stay busy with work to keep themselves from thinking about how much they miss their children. Other coping tactics include writing letters, sending gifts and making frequent phone calls.
The daily routine of Sgt. Joseph Mulford of the 35th Military Police Company is to wake up at three in the morning every day to talk to his daughter, Heather, 15, and son, Kyle, 9, after they come home from school. At other times, Mulford takes advantage of a talking picture frame with his children’s voices recorded.
Lunkwitz keeps his daughter’s photo close to his heart, printed on a dog tag. After seeing that, all the fathers asked where they can get the same thing done.
Molinar has sent gifts to his daughter to let her know he is thinking of her. He counts on Grandma to encourage Victoria to write letters to him.
When missing his daughter gets really hard, he talks to other soldiers.
“You can hurt, but there’s a lot of support here,” Molinar said.
“I keep that rolling. I just can’t fall in the pit,” he said. “When you fall in there, you stop functioning and you just can’t afford to do that.”