The family left behind


Modern technology not only helps fight wars, it helps the families left behind while their soldier is at war. For Tom and Shaala Sherman of DeKalb and their three kids, technology helped keep the family together while Tom served in Iraq with the Illinois National Guard for 16 months.

“The webcam is the best invention in the world. It was enough to still see him occasionally,” says Shaala, whose husband recently returned home.

Although staying in touch helped, having her best friend and sounding board gone for more than a year was rough, Shaala admits."Christmas was depressing last year, although I tried to make it as normal as possible. But it’s the same as dinner time—something’s missing. You’re not a complete family.”

Although Shaala shared the good times and bad with Tom via phone calls and e-mail, she also told him over and over again"I’m here waiting for you. I’ll be here when you get home.”

Shaala met Tom when he was in basic training, so she knew that as a soldier’s wife she would have to endure extended absences and the possibility of war. They had only been married a month when he was deployed to South Korea for a year. He also spent a year in Louisiana with the Guard when the kids were very young.

“We knew that this is what we were signing up for. Nobody wants to go to war, but as a soldier you’re trained to do a job and that job is to go to war,” Shaala says."You just have to support that."

The deployment was hardest on their daughter Veronica, 10, while Cassandra, 6, and Jason, 3, didn’t understand the concept of war as well and didn’t have the same worries their older sister had."Jason, who hasn’t been around (Tom) most of his life, he just adores him,” Shaala says."And Cassandra understands the war, but she didn’t really associate him as a soldier—he’s just Dad.”

With Tom home, the family is settling back into a routine."It’s just now starting to feel normal again,” Shaala says.

Shaala plans to celebrate their new life back together."I’ve had a harder time adjusting (to Tom being home) than anyone else, because my routine is no longer the same,” she says."But it’s a win-win situation. My routine was just to get me through the day while Tom was gone, so it’s not such a loss to give it up.”

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