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February 10, 2011

Interview with Amanda Williams

by K. Tsetsi

–by Kristen Tsetsi

Amanda Williams, 21, met Craig—a Marine who had already re-enlisted once by the time they met—in North Carolina in May of 2008 at a Marine Corps mini-fair called “May-nia.” They became fast friends and texted one another when they weren’t physically spending time together, and one day, on a water ride at Busch Gardens in Virginia, he leaned over and kissed her.

“From then on we have been inseparable,” Amanda says.

They married in a courthouse on November 6, 2009, and have two children. Craig deployed to Afghanistan in early 2010 and is due home soon.

LIFT: How many times has your husband deployed in x number of years?

AMANDA: This is Craig’s 3rd deployment in 7 1/2 years, but this is also his first with anyone besides his biological family waiting for his safe return home.

LIFT: People will often say, if you’re married to someone in the service and they deploy, “You know what you were getting into.” Is it true?

AMANDA: At least for me, this is a yes and no answer. I did know going into the marriage that he WOULD deploy at some point, but I did not understand the full emotional [upheaval] it would put me through. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think a lot of the other S/Os [significant others] I have come across feel the same.

LIFT: How would you describe what you’re thinking and feeling during your husband’s deployment? That is, how do you sleep/how does an average day feel/what do you experience that people you encounter may not necessarily see?

AMANDA: My sleep has been broken up but I blame that on my 13-month-old, Anthony, and 3-month-old, Ares. At first it was very hard to get to sleep alone, but as the year continued, I got used to the feeling of his weight no longer being next to me. I even tried using a body pillow as a substitute, but not even that worked.

I try to fill my days with our children. They keep me busy, and most of the time they keep my mind off of missing Craig. Sometimes I just see so much of him in both of them and it almost breaks me down. When that happens, I just have to remind myself that my two little ones depend on me so much that I cannot afford to fall apart.

LIFT: What do you like about deployments?

AMANDA: The thing I like about deployments is the time it gives you to think, learn, and grow. It gives you the time to think about what is really important in your life. It gives you time to learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. Last but not least it gives you the time to grow. Grow in ways you never thought you could. For example, I have grown as both a mother and a father figure.

LIFT: How, if at all, have deployments affected (either positively or negatively) your relationship with your husband?

AMANDA: We have a greater communication level. A lot of military S/Os will say that you should not tell your deployed loved one stressful information from the home front, but when at first I tried this method a lot more problems between us arose. He could tell I was not telling him everything. When I became honest and told him everything that was going on, including the stress in my pregnancy, the lines of communication opened and we have become much stronger as a couple.

LIFT: What do you wish more people understood about the experience of having a loved one go to war?

AMANDA: I wish that they understood a deployment is not vacation. That it is a worry that is always on our minds. That once our loved one is gone we don’t go out and party, we wait by the phones/computers for hours. That once he or she leaves, we are not off finding someone else to fulfill our “needs.” We are the girls (guys) that wait months, even years, for that one kiss.

LIFT: People who think it’s unrealistic to hope TIME will recognize the military family as Person of the Year might say the military family hasn’t had its own impact on our culture. How do you respond to that?

AMANDA: I would respond with the saying… “It takes a village.” In this aspect it’s not a child that the village is raising, but the morale of our troops out there fighting and dying for those who have less than us.

LIFT: What impression do you have of what others – civilians with no connection to the military – think of the military family? That is, how do you feel military families/the military community is perceived based on what you see in the media and hear from others?

AMANDA: The thing that gets me the most about their perception of the military family is that they think we have lots of money. I know many of us, service members and wives included, wish this was the truth, but honestly we are working pay check to pay check like so many others. Also a perception of the Marine Corps that I cannot stand is that this branch of the U.S. military is brainless. In fact, I have met many brilliant Marines.

LIFT: What elements of being a military family do you most enjoy?

AMANDA: The security. I love knowing that I can have a safe place to raise my children. That my children have the medical care they may need. Nothing is more important to me then my little boys. The military gives me the chance to give them a full and happy life.

LIFT: What’s it like to raise children while your husband is deployed?

AMANDA: I’m not going to lie—it is hard. My two sons are only 10 months apart, and that in itself is a task. I know there are many single mothers out in the civilian world, but the difference is that military S/Os have to find ways to keep daddy or mommy in the child’s life from across the world.

Our first son was born about 2 months before daddy left, and about 1 1/2 weeks after he was gone I found out I was expecting yet again. I was one of the lucky few who managed to have daddy home for both births. He had taken his R&R for the due date. Ares came early by a few days. Daddy got home, and 15 hours later we had our 2nd child. Two weeks later, daddy had to leave again.

Recently my husband finally decided to try skype. Since then, he gets on as often as he can. There are two things I always make sure I do during that time. One is to put the computer in the crib with Ares, our 3-month-old, so he and daddy can talk. The second thing I make sure to do is to take the computer in Anthony’s room so daddy can watch our 13-month-old son play and run around. Most of the time, Anthony will come over to the computer and babble to “dada.” He has even managed to tell daddy “I love you” a couple of times.


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