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Cultivating Afghanistan: The War on the Homefront

The war in Afghanistan affects not only the soldiers fighting it, but their spouses back home. And it has different consequences each time a loved one deploys.

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For military families like the Gardners, loved-ones' deployments present different stresses.

Maxie Gardner knows about having a loved one in Afghanistan. Just after 9/11, the military called up her fianceé, Shawn.

“We got married on a Thursday, and then Shawn left for Fort Campbell, Kentucky for the pre-deployment on a Friday, for his first tour in Afghanistan, which was 2001,” she said.  “So I’ve been a military wife from Day One.”

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With Major Shawn Gardner now back in Afghanistan with the ADT, Maxie said she uses her experience to maintain equilibrium.

“You’ve got to always be ready to accept change. I think I’ve learned if you don’t have that attitude or mindset, it can be quite difficult and frustrating…. If you hear one answer, it can always change.”

But Maxie said her husband’s two deployments presented different stresses.

“I would say my most significant change for me this time was having children though this deployment. The first month, it was a huge stress.  Just dealing with a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old, when Shawn left. They noticed a huge change here in our house, just that Daddy wasn’t here at home.”

First Deployment

But the pressures can even be harder for spouses dealing with their soldier’s first deployment.

“Maybe they’re not used to writing out the bills; maybe they’ve never had to be concerned for their automobile, the upkeep and maintenance of their automobile,” Maxie said.  “That’s just extra stress on top of your children, dealing with your children’s emotions.”

An Indianapolis-area pharmaceutical rep., Maxie serves as the Chairperson of the ADT’s Family Readiness Group – or FRG – a group dedicated to assisting the families of deployed soldiers.

“It’s a way for all of us family members to get together and talk about some of our stresses and frustrations. But not only that, it’s the way to solve any kind of problems that we have at home, or if there is ever an issue with pay, or an issue with our kids, or communications with our spouses who’re deployed. It’s just an avenue for us to get together and share ideas and solve problems we have on the home front.”

The FRG is part of the Indiana National Guard’s Family Program, which provides family members with an ever-changing array of health, financial, legal and family assistance.

“I think the military has changed significantly over the last… even since Shawn deployed the last time,” Maxie said. “I think they’ve had to because these problems are real and people do encounter them, and I think they have dealt with them like they have, you’re going to get people to stay in the military longer if you include the family, and help the family out. I know some of our family members have been upset and stressed out and worried and consumed with anxiety through this deployment, and they’ve used some of the counseling services, which has just been a blessing.”

Homecoming Challenges

She said the military has also developed programs to help ease homecoming challenges.

“There is a transition that you go through, when they do return because I think they’re so used to that intense, stressful environment that they came from.”

With the ADT’s yearlong deployment more than half over, the families eagerly await their soldiers’ return. Maxie Gardner says she reminds her kids their dad will be back soon.

“Daddy’s doing an important job. He is helping people farm. Just keep reminding them that he’s coming back home, and hopefully by Christmas, we’re hoping. “The most difficult part is just missing him, and I know that really… just missing him. I mean, because I do, I miss him every day. There’s not a minute that goes by, that I’m not thinking about him.”

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