Military News

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Air Force family adapts through deployments, PCS moves

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera
JBER Public Affairs


4/23/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- There are roughly 1.9 million U.S. military children worldwide who face unique challenges while their parents work to keep the mission going. Some were born into the military; some had to adapt to the life. They all silently live with their parents' decision to serve.

The Andres family faces the same challenges as any other military family has dealt with - constant moves, temporary duty (TDY), training or other aspects of military life that might mean their parent isn't always present in theirs.

Devin, now 16, was 3 years old when his father decided to join the military to provide a better future for them. He said he doesn't remember much at that age and isn't bothered by the military lifestyle.

As the eldest child of Liezl and Master Sgt. Tony Andres, 773d Civil Engineer Squadron section chief of requirements and optimization, the parents explained to Devin that his father would be gone for a while as he was gearing up for his first TDY.

Liezl was pregnant with their second child, Malia, when Tony left. Dealing with Devin and a pending birth, Tony's parents went to Kadena Air Base, Japan, to help Liezl and Devin.

"When his dad left, I noticed that he started having a temper and not wanting to do anything," Liezl said. "I was just glad my in-laws were there to help me out with Devin and Malia."

It was not long after Malia was born that Tony came back and Devin started to help out more around the house and taking the time to play with his sister.

"Devin's personality turned around when he knew his dad was home," Liezl added. "There was a time when Devin would not leave his father's side. If he didn't see Tony, he would look for him around the house."

In 2005, they welcomed their third child, Keoni, before Tony's first deployment to Afghanistan. Tony's parents returned to Kadena to help Liezl with their grandchildren.

"When Tony deployed, Devin started to isolate himself and refused to play outside with his friends. He just wanted to be in his room, not wanting to be bothered," Liezl said.

"Malia was just an emotional wreck. Every time she remembered her dad, she would ask where he was and would start crying because he was not home. Keoni was just a baby, so he never went through that phase."

Though Liezl tried to get the children involved in base events, deployed spouses dinners or a family night at Tony's squadron, she said it was not the same without him, but their family tried to make it work.

Now, their children are older and have a better understanding of the military and their father's frequent absences, they are better able to handle the stress and support each other, Liezl said.

"It doesn't bother me now, because I got used to him leaving," Devin said. "[When he is gone] we try to communicate with him as much as we can through Skype."

The Andres children said they adjust easily when their father is out the door and normally fall into a routine.

"I consider myself the 'fake dad'," Devin added. "When he leaves, I make sure that my brother and sister do their homework. Once in a while, I try to cook for them because mom can get a little stressed out when he is gone."

As the children bantered back and forth, Malia and Keoni agreed Devin's cooking is not as good as their dad's.

"My dad makes good steak," Keoni, age 8, said.

Malia said she misses seeing her dad's shiny bald head around the house when he is gone.

"Sometimes, I envy kids who don't have to say good bye to their dad all the time," Devin said. "Even though he tries to be there as much as he can, I miss that constant father figure."

They are not only used to their dad leaving, but they are used to leaving themselves. The Andres family has moved four times thus far.

"I miss trying out different food," Keoni said.

The children all agree they enjoy traveling, but hate saying good bye to their friends.

"Sometimes it's hard, because when you move, you're the new kid on the block," Keoni said.

Tony, who was also a military child, said moving is never easy. However, the communication and transitioning to a new location is a lot better than when he went through it with his parents.

"Believe it or not, I used to write letters to my friends in Hawaii and Japan," Tony said while looking at his children.

"There was no social media or webcam chat back then, so I wrote letters. It might have taken a while, but it allowed me to convey the message with my own personal touch."

Regardless if it was Tony or his family enduring another move or deployments, one thing they will always have is each other, even if it has to be long distance. They each play a part in serving their country.

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