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Posts Tagged ‘Father’s Day’

by Christy OFarrell.

Marine Corps Sgt. Ruben Barnett, a single dad, and his 3-year-old son, Ruben Jr. are planning to go to Dave & Buster’s arcade in Columbia, South Carolina, to celebrate Father’s Day. The two often play games, go on outings and take road trips together because Ruben arranged his schedule to allow him to spend more time with his son.

Ruben now works at the Naval Consolidated Brig at Naval Weapons Station, Charleston, South Carolina. He prefers the schedule — working 12-hour shifts, but only 14 or 15 days a month — to his old job before he was divorced, working nights often from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., as an avionics technician on helicopters at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. Having enlisted in June 2009, Ruben changed his career field and schedule when he re-enlisted in 2014, the year after Ruben Jr. was born. He became a correctional officer at Camp Pendleton, California, and they moved in 2015 to Charleston.

Ruben said it can be a rough job sometimes. “Every once in a while, you’ll have one prisoner that’s not having a good day, and kind of just wants to make everybody else’s day miserable too,” he said. But serving in the military has “definitely more ups than downs,” he said. “I love the Marine Corps,” including the structure and the fraternity. “I’m proud to represent it and be a part of it.”

Ruben Jr. is proud too. His dad said he used to have a children’s Marine Corps uniform that matched his own. Ruben Jr. “always says, ‘that’s cool dad,’” Ruben said. “He likes the badge and belt.”

But things changed the day before Thanksgiving 2016. When Ruben and his son left for work and daycare early that morning, all seemed normal. About 90 minutes later, the fire department called to notify Ruben at his workplace. “When I got there, I could see [the fire] from way down the street and it was terrible,” he said. “I was crushed at first but there were a lot of people there to help me. … Everyone just had words of encouragement and helped me through it.”

The fire is still under investigation, but apparently started with a faulty Bluetooth speaker, Ruben said. Right afterward, he and his son visited his hometown in Indiana to see his dad and stepmom. Then they moved into temporary housing, not far from the burned unit, and after about a month, into a more permanent location.

Photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin West.

The base housing office immediately secured a new place for the pair to live. But their new digs would have been empty since they also lost all their belongings, including furniture, clothing, household goods and food. “It was all just gone,” he said.

Operation Homefront arranged for BAE Systems in Summerville, South Carolina, to provide Ruben and his son $750 in gift cards to Lowe’s, Sears, Target and other stores, plus an additional $1,500 worth of goods, including a bed and mattress for Ruben Jr., a washer and dryer, many household items, and Christmas gifts and toys. “It was really nice,” Ruben recalls. “It was crazy like over time you build up so much stuff,” he said. “You buy stuff here; you buy stuff there. You don’t really think about how much you have or how much you’ve spent, or what you have until something like that happens.”

“I’d never heard of Operation Homefront until this fire,” Ruben said. “It was a huge relief. I was excited, I guess kind of at a loss for words.” Ruben said he was thankful that people who didn’t even know him would help. “I was grateful to be where I’m at and to receive the blessings. It’s not something that happens for everybody.”

“Hearing Ruben describe his ‘huge relief’ as a result of Operation Homefront’s support is precisely the impact we seek to deliver,” reflects John Pray, CEO and President of Operation Homefront. “We know that if we can help military families’ overcome their short-term financial challenges, we are able to ensure they stand a better chance for a brighter future — one where they thrive, not simply struggle to get by, in the communities they have worked so hard to protect.

“Thank you to Operation Homefront and BAE Systems,” Air Force Col. Robert Lyman, Joint Base Charleston commander, said in a base publication about the fire. “This was a nice and gracious touch from our community.”

Ruben Jr. never saw the burned house, his dad said. If there was a bright side, it is that Ruben Jr. has enjoyed the places they moved to after the fire. The temporary house they stayed in initially for about a month had something his old house didn’t: stairs. “He just wanted to play on the stairs the whole time,” Ruben said. And at the one-level home they’re in now, the park and playground are practically in their backyard. “He just wants to go out the back door, right to the park,” Ruben said. “It worked out perfectly.”

Now, life is getting back to normal. On Ruben’s work days, Ruben Jr. goes to daycare from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The facility is only about 15 minutes away from their home, but not on base because there was a wait list for the on-base center. On his days off, father and son have fun. “We go get haircuts every week,” Ruben said. “In the military, obviously, I have to have a haircut. I don’t feel like it would be right for me to have a haircut and he doesn’t.

“I’ll pick him up early from daycare,” he continued. “We’ll go to the park,” indoor trampolines at Velocity Air Sports or Chuck E. Cheese pizza, where they eat one of his son’s favorite foods, a list that also includes pasta and chicken nuggets. “When I’m going out, he goes with me.”

Ruben expects to be in Charleston for at least another four to five months. “Hopefully, I get selected for promotion,” he said. “I’d like to stay in for the full 20 years.”

Ruben Jr. regularly sees his mother, who also lives in Charleston, but his father is his primary caretaker.

Ruben’s father was in the Marines before Ruben was born, so he did not experience military life when he was young. But he believes it will benefit his son, maybe even giving him a chance to learn another language, if for example, they move to Japan.

“You get to experience different cultures and different walks of life,” he said. “You meet different people and see how they live. It should be a positive thing versus just growing up and you only know one thing or one way of living. It’s a huge world out there. You’ve got to get out and see it.”

 

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The author's husband and daughter, shortly after he returned from deployment.

The author’s husband and daughter, shortly after he returned from deployment.

As my husband prepared to leave for the first time since our oldest was born, I remember confessing to a seasoned military spouse that I feared she wouldn’t remember her Dad. She had been a wonderful mentor to me, and herself was a mother of four, and a military spouse for over 20 years. I figured if she didn’t know, no one would.

After I asked, she sort of cocked her head to one side, and with a knowing smile, told me, “They don’t forget.”

I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sold on that. “But she’s so young and he will be gone for so long.” This was way before the marvels of Skype and social platforms, and as a submariner, we were limited to radio messages and the occasional letter or call, if we were lucky. How on earth was I going to keep their connection all of those months that he would be gone?

But she was right. Just as he was never “gone” for me, he was never “gone” for her. He may not have been physically present, but he was there. At the table, at the park, while reading her a bedtime story.

When he first returned, and we met on the pier, there was a moment when my heart sank a bit when our daughter greeted him with a curious look. But then he took off his cap and the biggest smile of recognition spread across her face.

They don’t forget. Because in many ways, Dad is never “gone,” he’s just not here. It’s a distinction that may not make sense to some, but does to military children.

The baby in this blog is now about to turn 18, and if you ask her about those many years her Dad was deployed, don’t ask “what it was like to have Dad ‘gone?’” She won’t know how to answer. My mother, the daughter of a World War II veteran, won’t know either. Because, for them, Dad was never gone, and certainly never forgotten.

Surely, there are times when the days seem to go on forever, and you miss them terribly. It hurts, and there are tears and even anger. But those are the things that are forgotten. That’s why reunions are so emotional. All of the negative, if any, flees and love floods in.

This goes out to our deployed Dads today, but we also know there are many Dads whose sons or daughters are in harm’s way. We want you to know, too, that they never forget that you are with them, guiding them and giving them strength as you have done all of their lives.

Happy Father’s Day from all of us at Operation Homefront.

 

 

 

 

 

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There are moments when you don’t have to say a word to explain the special moments in a military family’s life.  Thanks to Dove Men+Care, and their Mission:Care, this is one of them:

Sponsored by Dove Men+Care and Operation Homefront,  Mission: Care will bring 300 families a special Father’s Day reunion.

For all of the Dads out there, especially our military Dads, we honor you this Sunday and always,  and will keep you in our thoughts until you are all home with your families.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Thanks to everyone who chimed in to get a shot at Tim McGraw VIP tickets. The winner is…(where’s my emoticon for a drum roll?)

Barbara.

Here’s why: She’s still trying to make up for last year’s Father’s Day debacle. Last year, she surprised DH with two tickets to a concert in Atlanta. She found a hotel, got a babysitter, made all the arrangements for a fabulous couple’s getaway. But two weeks before the concert, the Marine Corps announced other plans for Joe. He was headed to South America instead, and he had to leave within hours of the concert.

“Needless to say, the Marine Corps always wins, and we canceled the hotel and chalked the non-refundable tickets up to bad luck,” she said.

She’s also missing out on her Mother’s Day props; Joe will be on duty this Sunday.

So they’ll have a delayed celebration for last year’s Father’s Day and this year’s Mother’s Day, but a pre-party for their wedding anniversary, which is just a few days after the concert May 13.

As always with any contests we offer, I wish I had more to give. We only had two concert tickets, but we’ll be sending some goodies to the other folks who chimed in. Thanks again for participating.

And thanks to Outback Steakhouse and Tim McGraw for making this possible. Earlier this year, Outback pledged $1 million to Operation Homefront so we can continue to help military families in need. Special events like this make for priceless memories for our families who serve so selflessly.

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