By CHRISSY VICK / Associated Press
When Tessie Moyer heard the news about her husband's extended deployment, she knew she had to get more M&Ms. Each day, her three children look forward to eating one M&M, which represents that they are one day closer to wrapping their arms around their father's neck. Only this time, Moyer didn't have a concrete number for her children's method of counting down to their father's return from Iraq.
The news her husband, Lt. Lewis Moyer, battalion surgeon for 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, wouldn't be coming home on the date they had planned hit Moyer hard. It was even harder to tell her children their trip to Disney World would be canceled. His unit deployed in September 2006 for what was thought to be a seven-month stay in the Anbar Province. But they were told earlier this year that the unit's deployment would be extended by 60 to 90 days.
After President Bush's announcement that more troops would be going to Iraq, most of the 1/6 spouses knew the extension was coming. It's something they try to prepare for anyway.
But it's never easy to deal with. It can be even harder for children, said Angela Tagliabue, who had to break the news to her four children.
"Their whole world is turned upside down by an extension," Tagliabue said. "We were over halfway there when we got the news, so it was like starting all over again. We had to cancel our cruise."
The 1/6 wives, along with Marines of 8th Communication Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, gathered last Thursday night for a unit extension workshop. Lyn Helton and Judy Dunn, professional counselors with Marine OneSource, conducted the workshop that offered advice for coping with an extension. Marines and sailors with 8th Comm are preparing for their upcoming deployment.
Though the workshop was the first of its kind at Camp Lejeune, many of the wives already knew the basic information they were hearing. But they needed to hear it anyway.
"Taking this news is really like mourning," Dunn said. "The good part is your Marines are going to come home. Maybe not when you expected, but they will come home."
Dunn and Helton offered tips for coping with the added stress of an extension. Focus on things you can control. Avoid destructive attitudes and behavior. Give yourself time to regroup emotionally. Stick with routines. Focus on the future. Keep things in perspective. Stay focused on what's positive.
"If you get really down, make a list of three people you can call and three things you can do," Helton said.
"It's real important for you to be reminded of these simple things," Dunn said.
But sometimes it's the lot in life for a Marine wife.
"I think they're a different breed of women," Tagliabue said. "There's more camaraderie there than a normal community."
You stay strong, deal with it and move on, others said.
"It is one day at a time," said Sue Jurney, wife of battalion commander Lt. Col. William Jurney. "You can't handle any more than that. "But one thing that does help is drawing strength from each another. The spouses of 1/6 Marines and sailors remember they are not alone."
"Everybody is going through the same thing, so you've got someone that sympathizes," Tagliabue said.
They're things that often become a lifestyle for Marine and Navy spouses like Ashley Gafford, who grew up in the military. She is due to give birth to her second child April 11. If her husband, Corpsman James Gafford, had been home on the original scheduled return date, he probably would have made it just in time for the birth.
"I don't know anything other than military life," Gafford said. "I deal with it. I'm pretty independent because I have moved every three years. You have new friends all the time and you don't know anything else."
Gafford's 3-year-old daughter recently began asking where her daddy went. Lately, her words have been "Daddy left me and isn't coming back."
"My daughter feels like he's not coming home now because it's been so long," she said. "She's too young to understand."
So, what makes it worth it? The 1/6 spouses agreed that it was because they believe in the mission.
"You believe in what they're doing and you back them 100 percent no matter what," said Tagliabue, who has been through nine deployments with her husband.
"They're making a difference. And you know that." Jurney, who has endured eight deployments with her husband, says that is what she focuses on.
"You feel like you're a part of that difference they're making," she said. "I look at it like this — Ramadi has now been called a 'former stronghold' since our guys have been over there.'"
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