Wednesday, August 25, 2010


LT Holland saying goodbye to six-week old Annika. May '08
I posted last week about "Road Warrior" families. Turns out there are quite a few of us who have endured or are enduring separation in our families. Such is life these days.

Erica Holland and her husband Brad are what I would consider an "Ultimate Road Warrior" family. They spent 13-months apart while Brad was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army. I had a chance to send Erica a few questions about their separation and what she did as a wife and mom to keep her family strong.

And, she gave such great and thorough answers, that I have split the interview into two parts. Enjoy!

How about an introduction.
Let's see. I'm Erica. I'm a wife, a mom, and a photographer. I like to read cookbooks and sing along to classic musicals. I want to have a clean house, but sometimes when I set the table for dinner, I find the breakfast dishes are still there. I am Mom to Annika, who is almost 2 1/2, and to Lucy and Elise who are now 6 months old. Brad and I just celebrated our 5th anniversary. He commissioned into the Army three years ago, but it still feels new to me. Today at dinner our friend mentioned how during his MRE he had to move the 88s out of the box two days before it went cold. He had to take them to the washrack, but the full-bird wasn't tracking so he had to buff it out.  Hooah. After dinner Brad translated for me (and helped me write this, because I am still not really sure what we were talking about). We moved to Germany in October of 2007 and I was three months pregnant. Brad was gone at training exercises for most of October, November and December of that year. Annika was born on April 1st, 2008 and Brad deployed to Iraq on May 21st. The next time we saw Brad was in February of 2009 for two weeks of leave (vacation), when Annika was nine months old.  He came home for good at the end of June. He was gone for a total of 13 months. I've have successfully survived a deployment, but that doesn't mean I have it all figured out.  I would love comments on what works for your family, because I am sure there are more separations in our future.

How did you keep Annika connected with her dad (and he with her), while your husband was away?
Brad is a Signal Officer, which means he is in charge of communications. As such, he was generally located on large operating bases with his own internet connection. We talked on Skype a lot. We paid a lot for Brad to have personal internet, but it was a good investment for us. Once Annika got a little older, she enjoyed being able to talk to her Dad and see him on the computer. I think she may have actually thought that Daddy lived in the computer. One of the best things Brad did was to make a movie for Annika before he left. He just videotaped himself reading a bunch of stories, and then playing some simple games like peek-a-boo. He recorded most of it before Annika was even born, and I think he felt a bit foolish doing it at times, but it helped Annika feel close to a Dad she didn't know. I should post some of it, but I think he is already mortified that so many people other than Annika have seen it. Since she was so young, the books didn't interest her as much as the games. He just played peek-a-boo and talked to her, made animal noises with stuffed animals,  and named parts of his face, etc... She loved it (and I got a good laugh out of it too).  
Annika and Dad skyping.

What things did you do to strengthen your personal relationship with Brad while he was away?
Before Brad even left we decided that we needed to make our relationship a priority while he was gone. We made an effort to talk, even when we were both tired and didn't always feel like it. We did our best to continue praying together and reading scriptures (although we weren't as consistent as we could have been.) It is sometimes awkward to pray together over the phone or on Skype, but it always brought peace. We both knew that the best way to maintain our relationship was to keep our personal relationship with the Lord strong. God is the binding in any marriage, and so even when you are thousands of miles apart, He can keep you together. We were always honest, and still consulted each other for bigger decisions, purchases, etc... I was learning to be a parent without Brad, but I tried to keep him involved by asking him what he would have done in different situations, and by taking lots of pictures and videos of Annika for him.

Stay tuned for part two tomorrow where Erica gives advice on how to reintegrate your family after a long separation. In the mean time, check out Erica's photography blog, if our paths ever cross again I will be sure to have Erica do our family photos. 

All images courtesy of Erica Holland


Heidi said...

Goodness that top photo made me burst into tears.

Erin@mamaswhoknow said...

I know Heid, I love that picture. These military wives are pretty amazing--and their husbands and kids too.

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