This is Family Week in the Air Force, part of the greater Year of the Air Force Family.
Families are important to the success of the Air Force mission. I know it’s especially true for me when I deployed earlier this year to Iraq and when I deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. Knowing my wife was taking care of the home, paying the mortgage and bills (which she normally does anyway), cutting the grass, and maintaining the cars during my absence was a big relief. Fortunately, we don’t have children so she didn’t have that added responsibility. Many spouses of deployed Airmen do.
In some ways, I felt guilty when I deployed. I believe deploying was harder for my wife, Lisa, than for me. She had to do everything. Setting aside the fact I was in a war zone, I only had to worry about work or try to anticipate the next time the “D-FAC” (dining facility) was going to have tacos or chocolate pudding. The other facets of life back home were … well, back home. They were thousands of miles from where I was … waiting for Lisa to do them.
For Airmen with families, this is a great time to thank family members for the sacrifices they make to support our careers. Thank you, Lisa.
Military Family of the Year
The Air Force’s military family of the year – the Ojala family from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. – was in Washington recently to attend the National Military Family Association’s Military Family of the Year ceremony.
Deployments have been a part of Ojala life. Since 9/11, Tech. Sgt. Thane Ojala has undergone six deployments. They speak from experience about coping with deployments. “Know your resources, such as key spouses,” said Master Sgt. Wayne Ojala, the superintendent of the Nellis’ Airman and Family Readiness Center.
“And take advantage of them,” added Tech. Sgt. Thane Ojala, a 99th Force Support Squadron food service accountant. “There are so many programs in place. You’re never in it alone.”
Even the Ojala children have advice for families when coping with deployments.
Don’t give up by looking at the negative, said 17-year-old Jari. “Look at the positive. Try new things.”
Katherine, 14, said writing has helped her cope with deployments. She added deployments do get easier.
Kalie, 13, said, “There are other families whose parents are gone. You’re never alone.”
Master Sergeant Ojala said if there was one word to describe his family it would be “resilient.”
“All of the kids have done a great job with deployments,” he said. He credited the children with helping him keep the household running and maintaining good spirits while his wife was deployed. The senior NCO said programs for deployed families at the Nellis AFRC helps him through the frequent separations from his wife. It’s also a way for the family to cope.
“Jari drags us to the gym pretty regularly,” Master Sergeant Ojala said. “It motivates me.”
(Pentagon Airman is written by Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.)