Family: Husband, Mark, children, Kaitlyn, 17, Kiersten, 14, Abigail, 12, Andrew 10, Mackenzie, 9, and Madeline, turning 3 in August.
THE HALL FAMILY (l to r, back row): Kiersten, Mark, Athena, Kaitlyn, Abigail (l to r, front row) Mackenzie, Madeline, Andrew
Mark joined the Army National Guard seven years ago and is based at Fort Harrison in Helena, Montana. After one deployment to Iraq in 2005, he’s due to return in August for up to 18 months. The family has moved six times for Mark’s civilian telecommunications job.
Does your relationship with your children change when you’re holding down the house alone?
AH: Mom gets cranky! They do less, to a point, like with sports, so that I can keep up. There’s a little bit of guilt with that, if there’s a great activity I say no to. We do family night every week, games, devotional. I just keep them close. I try not to worry, and I don’t watch the news.
Mark lost a friend in the war, a kid he was close to. I never left my kids alone at home the last time he deployed. There was always an adult with them. I always thought if someone showed up to tell us something about Mark, I had to be there.
Did you grapple with fear a lot then?
AH: I spent the last deployment sleeping on the couch with the dog next to me. I had a lot of alone time, a lot of alone time with God. Spiritually it’s the time I’ve grown the most. You can’t pick up the phone and tell your husband what your child did that day. I had to go to prayer.
Fear is there, but you don’t want to live there. For me, that’s giving it to God, every minute, every day, and I alleviate fear by making lists. It’s a war. I have to be somewhat prepared. Our last family portrait was two and a half years ago, so I want to do that soon … build memories now, while he’s home.
What’s most challenging about your husband’s return?
AH: When he came back last time, our daughter was wearing make-up. He’s like, “Who gave you permission?” But life continues. Our baby will turn 3 the day before he leaves. He’ll miss that Christmas, Easter and our eldest’s high school graduation. I hope I can do a good job, recording memories and such. It may be birthdays without Dad, but I still want to do it the way he’d want to.
Athena attends Central MOPS in Great Falls, Montana, a group she helped start, and is a MOPS Area Director for Alaska, Montana and Wyoming. Last deployment her older children chatted via computer with their dad during the day because he worked overnight in Iraq. Athena said they love the military, though they take a considerable pay cut when Dad is activated.