April 18, 2014

SALUTE TO MILITARY FAMILIES: A range of emotions for kids of deployed soldiers

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Steve Lambrecht reunites with his wife, Jodi, and kids Logan and Leah after returning from Iraq in 2007. (Observer courtesy photo).

Steve Lambrecht reunites with his wife, Jodi, and kids Logan and Leah after returning from Iraq in 2007. (Observer courtesy photo).

By Heleigh Bostwick

Observer correspondent

November 7th, 2013

Children whose parents are deployed often experience a range of feelings, no matter what their age.

“Sad,” was how Logan Lambrecht felt the first time he was old enough to understand that his dad, Steve Lambrecht, was away on military duty.

In 2011, Lambrecht, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, spent two months in South Korea as a pilot flying F-16s.

He had also done two tours in Iraq, the first in 2006 and the second in 2007.

Logan, now a second grader at Allen Brook School, was too young to remember the first two times his dad was deployed.

His sister Leah, a 10-year-old in fifth grade at Williston Central School, was only four years old on Lambrecht’s second tour in 2007, but remembers how she felt.

“When I woke up in the morning, it was just me and Mom and Dad didn’t come home,” she recalled.

Jarett Legg was just five when his dad, Gary Legg, who was in the National Guard, was sent to Iraq for seven months in 2004. Five years later, in 2009, Legg was deployed again. This time he was sent to Afghanistan.

“It was pretty shocking the first time,” recalled Jarett, who is now 14 and a student at Champlain Valley Union High School. “I was young and didn’t really know what was going on.”

“It was really weird coming home and not seeing him there, just my mom,” added his older brother Alex, now 16, and also a student at CVU. “Not being able to talk face to face…it just wasn’t the same.”

Ellie Beckett was 13 when her mom, Deb Beckett, was deployed to Kuwait for a year and 19 when her mom was deployed to Iraq. Now 22, she graduated from Claremont McKenna College last May and is working to save enough money to hike the Appalachian Trail next March.

“It was sad to have my mom gone,” she said. “It was stressful and I missed her a lot.”

“My dad and brother and I didn’t know how to cook, so the church would bring us meals,” she added.

The Lambrechts also had support from the community.

“I remember Mom broke her elbow and couldn’t drive,” Leah said. “My friend was on the same gymnastics team and we carpooled and our neighbors would have us over for dinner a lot.”

There weren’t many kids in Williston whose parents had been deployed, but almost all of them knew at least one other family like theirs.

“In 2009, we had a family friend who was also deployed to Afghanistan,” recalled Jarett and Alex’s mother, Deb Brown, a former Marine who is now a staff sergeant in the National Guard. “Alex and Jarett were friends with his son.”

“There was a support group at school and the National Guard offers youth programs, but the boys weren’t able to attend because of conflicts with sports schedules,” she added.

Despite the stress of having a parent deployed, the kids maintained a positive outlook.

“It didn’t affect my life that much, but it did make me realize everything that a family has to go through and what soldiers have to experience while they are deployed,” said Alex.

Jarett added, “Having my dad deployed helped me understand what soldiers have to do and what sacrifices they have to make to allow our country to be free.”

“It made me a lot more independent and I had to learn how to be more responsible,” said Ellie.

The kids kept in touch with their deployed parents through phone calls, email, texts and Skype.

“The first time mom was deployed, she called a couple of times a week,” recalled Ellie. “The second time I was off at college and we would Skype.”

“We used a Webcam the first time,” added Alex. “The second time we used Skype and sent emails and texts.”

All of the kids agreed that the surprise homecomings their parents planned were the best.

“At the end of eighth grade our house (Full House) took a field trip to Boston,” said Ellie. “When our bus returned, mom was home on leave and there at the bus to surprise me.”

“When my dad came back from Korea, he walked into my class and surprised me at school,” said Leah, who was attending Allen Brook at the time.

“I don’t really remember the first time my dad came back, but the second time I was really excited,” said Alex. “It had been a year since I’d seen him.”

“I don’t remember the first time my dad came back either, but the second time I got out of science class and we waited for him,” Jarett added. “I remember seeing all the faces of the soldiers coming through the door and then I saw my dad. I was happy. It was pretty awesome.”

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