Tough times for spouses and kids of soldiers

February 3, 2010 3:02:55 PM PST
Surprise homecomings are touching and heart-warming, but the reality is that military families face a number of challenges. For spouses and kids, it can be rough, especially when their loved one is on multiple tours."Having him gone, just the anxiety of it all," Beth Delli-Pizzi said.

For one full year, Delli-Pizzi was a single mom while her husband Lou was in combat. She says it is tough to do it all, from greeting her 5-year-old son Jack at the door after school to making sure 11-year-old Maggie's homework was done for the day.

"I never thought I'd find myself in that situation," she said. "And when he was gone, it was probably the most difficult time in my life."

Delli-Pizzi's husband made the life-changing decision to join the Army National Guard after September 11th, but their whole world changed when Lou was deployed last January as the commander of a team in charge of training the Afghan soldiers to fight the Taliban.

At the time, Jack was just 3 years old and in turmoil.

"He was going through a lot of 'Where's daddy, I want to talk to daddy,'" she said. "So you just have to reassure them that he's OK, he'll call when he can and that he's brave."

Beth began waging a new battle. She herself was overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. Lou would call once every two weeks. Dad was gone, and the family had trouble coping. Especially during the holidays.

You try not to let your kids see you go through that," she said. "They have meltdowns, you have meltdowns. And we had a lot of them."

But the full-time immigration attorney forged ahead, as the leader of a family readiness group with the Army National Guard.

"You need people that are going through the exact same thing that you are," she said. "Because it's just that, the fear."

In fact, experts say families should open up the lines of communication. They say do not be afraid to talk to your children and give them constant support and reassurance. And they urge family members to get help.

"Certainly, that helped me in my darkest hour," Beth said. "Just think that God wouldn't let anything come to my husband and other people that were close to us because they were doing such a brave and wonderful thing."

Today, Lou Delli-Pizzi is home and the children are elated. But he and his wife know all too well their time together is precious and fleeting. It is something they choose not to discuss with their children.