Monday, October 25, 2010

While You Were Gone

“In ancient Jewish society a woman depended on her husband for sustenance and social status,” comes the voice of Father Steve DeLeon through the television. “To lose a husband meant to be poor and defenseless, especially where the widow had no grownup son.” A few minutes late to Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Virginia Beach, the Castillo family sneaks past the lobby and into the nursery, where the youngest children, Kevin, 8, and Tessa, 5, find spots on the floor, and where the family can watch the service over the television. The Castillo’s eldest, Kim, sits between her boyfriend Ryan Harr and her mother, Tammy Castillo, whose husband Mike, a Maintenance Material Management Coordinator, is deployed with the Normandy. Though this is their fifth deployment, for Tammy, it is proving to be the hardest.

“Faith is what will keep us going when it seems that our situation seems hopeless and our prayers seem to go unanswered,” continues Father Steve, as Tammy raises her eyes to the screen and Ryan rests his head on Kim’s shoulder. “God does not ask us to be perfect, because we will never be perfect. God asks us to keep on trying. The persistent widow is the hero of today’s parable, not because she got what was rightfully hers, but because she did not give up in the face of all of the obstacles.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

While You Were Gone

“With deployment, I learned that I’m not in control of everything, and I have to let go of that,” says Danielle Brazie, whose husband Robin Brazie is an air traffic controller on the Truman. With all the uncertainty inherent in deployment and a nomadic life in the military, there are certain things she does control, and keeping busy is her way of dealing with this first long separation from her husband. She has three children to care for, and has devoted herself to homeschooling them, so their daily life is full of activities like trips to the zoo, where even Annabella, 6 months, is engaged in the lessons of the field trip.

“I get so lonely for him, but the goal is to be so busy that I don’t have much time to miss him,” says Danielle, who . “For the first two months, I missed him because the day-to-day was harder without him. Now, I miss him as my partner, the person I love. I miss his company.”

“When he left, I’d never really lived in a big city. I told myself I’d get really busy and involved. Now that he’s been gone so long, I see that I did everything I said I’d do, and that means a lot to me. Now I know, I can do this. I can make it through this, if I just stay busy.”

Friday Night

I love shooting football. Have I mentioned that before? And a team called the Wildcats? Why not. It's a throwback to Jasper, where I first learned about football.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Football Magic

In the bright light of day (top) and after it gets dark (bottom) I love shooting football, though I don't get to do it as much as I used to.

Monday, October 11, 2010

While You Were Gone: Father

This one was a tough one to edit, because this family way so lovely, and the range of experiences we shared in the few hours I was there was so wide. Which one would you pick for print? I'd love some input.

“If I wake up crying for mommy again, will you come up and get me?” calls Jackson after his father, who carries a drowsy baby Ella to her bedroom. The night before, Jackson had woken up calling for his mother, Elizabeth Barnes, for the first time in a since she left for her deployment as a Chief Electronics Technician on the Truman, and wants the assurance that his dad would be there for him. Gary Barnes ducks back into his son’s room. “Of course, buddy. I’ll be there.”

“She’s physically gone, but she’s not really gone. She’s a part of our everyday routine,” says Gary. Gary had planned to make his career in the Navy as a Chief Fire Controlman, until an illness forced him into early retirement. The family re-imagined their plans, and it made sense for Elizabeth to finish her career in the military, and for Gary to care for the children, as well as run the family business, while Elizabeth is away. “It’s different on so many levels. Instead of being only the disciplinarian, I’ve learned when they need comfort and when they needs hugs and kisses. Sometimes they just need ten minutes to run wild, instead of being on a strict schedule. It’s a really cool bonding experience I get to share with my kids.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

While You Were Gone: Grocery Store

Red-faced, wailing, and inconsolable, the baby’s cries cut above the din of Walmart’s food aisles on this Thursday afternoon. Mary Brazie, mother to Aubrey and Aidan, has resigned herself to the constant protestations of her youngest child, who is calm in the car but disconsolate once forced into the child seat. Mary scans the aisles for the bread, peanut butter, and apple juice on her list, and contemplates whether a five pound bag of apples fits into her weekly budget, or if she should just pick up a few for now. She puts the full force of her small frame into maneuvering the shopping cart through the store, anxious to get the shopping trip over with as soon as possible.

“One look from Tyler, and the’d both be smiling,” sighs Mary Brazie, whose husband Tyler Brazie, a third class petty officer, is deployed with the Truman. Their first deployment has proved difficult for Mary, especially since Tyler is such an active father to her two children. “He’d be smiling, the kids would be happy, and he’d be making choices about what to buy because he loves to cook. When I first met him, I thought to myself, ‘this is the man that I love.’ It is harder than I expected to be without him, even for just the little things, like grocery shopping.

The day he deployed, he left a towel on the floor of the bathroom, and normally that would bother me, but for the longest time I didn’t even want to pick it up, because I missed him so much. I would give anything for him to be home right now, leaving towels all over the floor.”

While You Were Gone: Birthday

More from my photo column While You Were Gone: stories of military families with loved ones deployed.

The hair is done, the makeup on, and the heels high as a group of young women prepare for their Saturday night out. Meghan Gorny places a tiara in her straight blonde hair, bought specially for the occasion that the group has gathered to celebrate; her 32nd birthday. While the mood is light in the parking lot of the local gas station on the way to the restaurant, Megan’s expression belies a certain stoicism. When asked about why the return date for her husband Lt. Joel Gorny’s, ship the Normandy keeps changing, Meghan shrugs it off. “Whatever happens, happens,” she says. That he can’t be here for her birthday doesn’t bother her either. “Things could be so much worse.

“I was in the Navy so I know what to expect and the bottom line is that he has a job to do.” While their husbands, boyfriends, and fiancees are away, women of the Normandy’s Family Readiness Group are quick to support one another. “They are my family when he’s gone. They are what is keeping me sane” says Megan. “We’re all on the same page. The other wives and girlfriends know what deployment means more than any of my civilian friends ever could. I’m just taking it day by day.”

Hunting More Magic

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I will not complain about the fruity drinks, the golf cart rides, the midnight kayaking, the beer and the boat, the best friends in the world. If only there was more vacation in my life. Someday.

Making Your Own Magic

No one will schedule your magic for you. If you want it, you have to go and find it yourself.