Town gets a clerk, family gets a mom

Deb Beckett returns from Kuwait

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

Last Christmas, David Beckett and his two teenage children had to break a long-standing tradition and pick out a Christmas tree without his wife and their mother, Deb.

This year, after a year in Kuwait with the Vermont National Guard (which she first joined in 1981), she returned just in time to revive the tradition.

Deb Beckett and the rest of Task Force Green Mountain – about 600 members of the National Guard who were assigned to security duty in Kuwait – returned Friday to Hangar 3 at the National Guard air base in Burlington to cheers and shouts of joy.

David, Sean and Ellie Beckett waited in the hangar during a blinding snowstorm that temporarily closed down Burlington International Airport, but did not stop the transport planes from bringing home the troops from Camp Shelby, Miss. The soldiers had stopped there for several days on the way back from Kuwait as part of their demobilization process.

The guard’s brass band struck up the tune “I’ll be Home for Christmas” as the hangar doors rolled up and the first group of soldiers walked in, searching out loved ones in the huge crowd.

Deb Beckett, Williston’s town clerk, was in the front of the throng and made a beeline for her family, who made their presence known by jumping up and down and yelling for their well-tanned mom.

“Sgt. Beckett,” David Beckett said by way of introduction to a reporter in the hangar. “Now, Mrs. Beckett.”

“And mom to these two,” Deb Beckett said between hugs, gesturing to Sean, 17, and Ellie, 14.

Saturday, the Becketts made their annual trip to Catamount Family Center to pick out and cut down a Christmas tree as a complete family. They rode the horse cart and picked out a bushy fir tree to take home.

“When she left, we thought it would be a full 18 months,” David Beckett said in an interview. “It’s nice to have the family together for Christmas and all the activities surrounding Christmas.”

He paused, then added, “Mostly just that she’s home sooner. One day, every day, every minute is better than being away.”


Daily sandstorms, 100-plus degree heat and long periods of extreme boredom were some of the challenges Deb Beckett faced in the desert 6,000 miles from Williston.

“Being away from home, that was definitely the hardest,” she said. “The very routine, mundane kind of work that most people were doing gave you a lot of time to think what you’re missing.”

She said technology helped her get through tough times.

“One of the big differences between this mission and those in the past was just the availability of Internet and cell phones,” she said. “That made it a whole lot easier.”

She said the family talked for 10-20 minutes a day on a cell phone during her deployment.

The family also received support from within. David Beckett said Sean and Ellie were key in keeping things running smoothly.

“They took on more responsibility themselves instead of relying on, you know, mom who was always there,” David Beckett said. “She isn’t there and dad’s not as capable – “

Here Deb Beckett laughs and shakes her head, “He is.”

“— so it was like, ‘hmm, I’m going to have to do it myself.’ And they did, and it was OK.”

Both Becketts said the community also helped out tremendously during the deployment.

Members of the Williston Federated Church brought the family meals on Tuesdays, and the local Boy Scout Troop brought food over every Thursday and Sunday, and other people from the community helped with cooking and offering words of encouragement as well, David Beckett said.

“That was huge,” he said. “The Beckett family is most appreciative of all that support that we got.“

A year apart could ruin some relationships, but for the Becketts, it had a bonding effect.

“I think it got a lot stronger,” Deb Beckett said of their relationship. “You kind of wind up, just through life, kind of doing your own thing.”

Dave Beckett agreed. “We really didn’t spend much time on us,” he said. “Demands of the community, demands of the kids. We’ve kind of reset our priorities.”

Time in the desert gave Deb Beckett a lot of time to think about what was important to her.

“There’s been a lot of changes in priorities,” she said. “Family is much more important to me, than pretty much anything.”

Deb Beckett said she and her family will think together about whether she will rejoin the Guard. She has no National Guard duties for 90 days, and then will make a decision.

“A lot, too, depends on the realistic chances of deployment again,” she said. “I do not want to do that again. Been there, done that. Got the t-shirt and everything.”

Back to life

Deb Beckett said she is eager to rediscover her old routines like cooking, grocery shopping, driving her kids around to their various engagements.

“All the activities, all the basketball games on Saturday. I look forward to getting back to work,” she said. “Life, you know, just generally life.”

The Becketts don’t have any plans for vacation in the immediate future, but Deb Beckett said she has some conditions if they do go away on a trip.

“If we do, it will not include a beach,” she said. “Or camping.”