Our family and friends in the armed forces deserve special recognition. Honor those who have served our country with these events and stories for Veterans Day.
Honor those who have served our country with these events and stories for Veterans Day.
Costumed docents from the 8
Veteran Reserve Corps,a Civil War re-enactment group with the Lombard Historical Society,portray the lives and stories of veterans buried at the LombardCemetery. Soldiers from the War of 1812, the CivilWar, and WWI will be portrayed as well as stories from their lovedones back home.
Decorate holiday stockings for the troops overseas. A letter writing station is also available for you to write a note of thanks or encouragement to be included with your stocking. Donations of stocking stuffer items (cards, small shampoos, razors, sunflower seeds, etc.) are accepted.
Guests can view an array of military memorabilia, including uniforms and documents, from the Revolutionary War to the present. Additionally, a military vehicle will be on display on the Discovery Center Plaza. Greeting guests from noon to 1 p.m. will be one of the zoos birds of prey, accompanied by animal care staff. During the same time, zoogoers can enjoy a performance by the Legacy Girls as they sing toe-tapping hits of the famous Andrew Sisters. The 1 p.m. Veterans Day ceremony will feature the posting of colors and a performance of the National Anthem, followed by remarks from Rich Gamble, senior vice president of operations for the Society. After the ceremony, guests are invited to stay for an entertaining routine by the popular Jess White Tumblers.
Army Capt. Ray Abordo had spent much of his year in Afghanistanthinking about seeing his family again, and when the moment came,he carefully planned how he would step into each of his children’sclassrooms and surprise them. First up would be 14-year-oldCaitland while she ate lunch at Marlowe Middle School in Lake inthe Hills, then he would head on to the two schools where his otherchildren waited, unaware that their long wait was finally over.
Watch the reunion video! (Click Video tab atright)
Ray had actually flown in to O’Hare Airport Friday night and wasgreeted by his wife Maria and infant sonTristan Nicholas,born while Ray was in Afghanistan. The three older kids, Caitland,Alex, 10, and Isabella, 5, had been shipped off to relatives forthe weekend and Ray, Maria and the baby holed up in a nearby hotelwaiting for Monday morning.
Ray walked into the office at Caitland’s school at 11:15 a.m.Monday, Jan. 10. Caitland wouldn’t eat lunch for another half-hour.After a quick consultation, Maria asked the office staff, “Where isCaitland now? He can’t wait any more to see her.”
“This is more nerve-wracking than it was to go into theatre(Afghanistan),” Ray said as he waited to see Caitland. As so begana morning filled with reunions and children’s reactions that rangedfrom shock to tears.
Before Ray left for Afghanistan, he and his familytalked to Chicago Parent about the year ahead and how tough
when a parent goes to war and leaves his family behind. Now Ray and
Maria agreed to let Chicago Parent share their family’s
“Daddy, you said Wednesday,” Caitland sobbed as she clung to herdad when he came into her classroom. “You gave me a heart attack.I’m shaking.”
“I’ll hold onto you,” Ray said as they clung together.
For Alex, the initial excitement was tempered by the fact thathe was in front of his 5
grade classmates. Alex hadreached into his dad’s arms and Ray picked him up off the ground ina bear hug.
“Dad, you don’t have to lift me up,” Alex said, slightlyembarrassed as his class watched.
And for kindergartner Isabella, who sat eating her lunch as herdad, mom and siblings came into the cafeteria, the reaction was oneword: “Daddy!”
Ray spent a year missing these precious moments with hischildren and he is determined to cherish each moment goingforward.
“The hardest part was missing a lot of the milestones,” Raysays. “I know for my youngest son it was the small steps, the firsttime he crawled, the first time he said ‘mama’ or ‘dad.’ Now he’sstarting to stand up. But at least I’m here for his first walkingsteps.”
For his older children, Ray missed being a part of theirday-to-day lives. “It’s the daily living stuff, afterschoolactivities, my not being there to help support them. That waspretty hard.”
While he was in Afghanistan, Ray was able to Skype with thechildren and on March 8, he watched as Maria gave birth via aC-section that brought baby Tristan into the world. But nothing wasthe same as actually being there.
When Ray stepped off the Alaska Airways flight that brought himto Chicago Jan. 7, his wife and son were first in line to greet thetroops.
“People kept pushing me and saying, ‘Oh, he hasn’t even seen hisson. You need to get up there,'” Maria says. “And then he was thefirst one off the plane. Oh my God, I thought I was going to throwup. I was crying and shaking and we were just holding our sontogether.”
“I was like, oh, he looks kinda like me. I think my mother has ababy picture of me and it is pretty close,” Ray says with alaugh.
Now that Ray’s home, he knows it will take time to reintegrateinto the fabric of his children’s lives. So much has changed in ayear for them, and for Ray. He spent a year “working 24/7. On ca
To read more about the members of this unit, and how life onthe homefront has changed, click here.
While other soldiers tearfully heldonto young children before deploying to Afghanistan, ElieceSoebbing happily sat on the floor in her fatigues watching her1-year-old daughter crawl and laugh. “I’m in total denial,” Elieceadmits.
Even though she knew that within hours she would be leaving herdaughter for 13 months, Eliece chose to focus on the positive. Sheknows she’ll miss some important moments as a mom, but she’s gladshe was there to see her baby’s first tooth and her first tentativesteps.
And Eliece keeps reminding herself that the separation will bemuch harder on mom than on baby-Madelyn won’t even remember thedeployment when she is older.
Eliece’s mom, Monica, says her daughter struggled when she firstfound out she would be deployed.
“She asked if she was being selfish for being excited about thedeployment and leaving the responsibility of child care to herhusband and parents,” Monica says. “We told her that she’s not theone being selfish, that military members like her who are willingto make this sacrifice for the rest of us make what we do at hometo help them out peanuts.”
Eliece’s family draws comfort from knowing that the medical unitshe deployed with is filled with good, compassionate soldiers.
“They support each other and you can tell they care about eachother,” Monica says. “They’ll bring each other home.”
Around him people pose for pictures and parents corral rowdykids, but Staff Sgt. Brian Duffy is quiet, absorbed, completelyfocused. This parenting moment is precious, he knows, and not to bewasted. As he hands his first child to his wife, he plants a kisson the crop of dark hair atop the 6-week-old’s head. It will be 13months before he holds his son again.
Duffy, who wears combat fatigues under the spit-up towel drapedover his shoulder, is headed to war.
His Chicago-based Army Reserve unit deployed on Jan. 4 for a13-month tour in Afghanistan. Its 16 members have 28 kids betweenthem and all were in attendance at the send-off ceremony at FortSheridan, from 6-week-old Brian to 22-year-old Rob Aitchison, whosemother, Pam, is a major.
Almost 2 million children nationwide have a parent in themilitary, and an estimated 300,000 have a parent currently servingin Iraq or Afghanistan. With no end in sight to either conflict,and President Obama’s promise to send an additional 30,000 troopsto Afghanistan by next summer, that number is going to rise beforeit falls. These are the hidden costs of the country’s two wars:missed recitals, a report card slipping from Bs to Cs, a once-happymarriage marred by squabbles over bills and groceries.
As the way America fights its wars changes, so, too, does lifeon the home front. Multiple deployments, a heavy reliance onreserve and National Guard units, and the uncertainty over when andhow these conflicts will end have put more stress than ever onmilitary personnel and the families they leave behind.
Bottom line: It’s taking more fuel than ever to keep the homefires burning.
A heavy load
The unit’s orders came last winter in an e-mail from thecommander. Lt. Ray Abordo printed out the sheet and handed it tohis wife, Maria. She started to cry.
“All of a sudden, it was like there was this big clock countingdown, and every day it started going faster and faster,” says thefather of three, a trauma nurse in the unit.
Video games with his son, Alex, and trips to his daughterCaitland’s gymnastics meets took on extra significance. But astraining trips ate up his weekends and everyday tasks becamereminders of the coming deployment, Ray started to detach, his wifesays, occasionally becoming distant and snappy. For the first timein their 13-year marriage, the couple felt their relationship startto shake.
“He was pulling away, and I’m holding on as tight as I can, andbefore you know it, you’re fighting about the stupidest things,”Maria says. “(The deployment) just changed the entire feel in thehouse.”
And now that Ray is gone, Maria, who is seven months pregnantwith the couple’s fourth child, must face the fallout alone.
In families with one deployed parent, it’s simple math. Onedriver has to shuttle the kids from school to karate to pianolessons. One income has to make do where before there were two. Andone person is left with the emotional burden of keeping the familybond strong.
“As parents, you see yourself as a team,” Maria says. “Then allof a sudden, it’s just me … That’s a heavy load.”
It’s a load she’s determined not to let affect her children –“they should be allowed to just be kids,” she says — but that’seasier said than done. Studies, including one released in December by the RAND
Corporation and the National Military Family Association, have
repeatedly found that parental deployments have lasting effects on
their children’s emotional health, sense of responsibility and
success in school.
“Now that he’s gone, I have to basically be my dad,” says Alex,9. “My mom has no one to hang out with.”
For the next 369 days, the Abordos will find their way as aone-parent household, navigating teacher conferences and gymnasticsmeets and 4-year-old Bella’s