Armed Forces Day – Families serve too

  • Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2024, 10:03 am

Michele M., Thomas H., and Felecia B. share photos of their family members currently serving in the Armed Forces
Michele M., Thomas H., and Felecia B. share photos of their family members currently serving in the Armed Forces.

Pantex Emergency Preparedness Specialist Felecia B. has always known that Pantex played a vital role in the nation’s safety and security, but it wasn’t until her daughter joined the U.S. Air Force that the site’s mission truly resonated with her.

“I have always believed in our mission, but now, after my daughter has been to 5 duty locations, 2 deployments to the Middle East, and over 20 countries, I know that what we do here directly impacts the protection of our nation, our allies, and our military members stationed around the world,” Felecia said.

Felecia’s daughter, Sergeant Katelyn V., is now stationed in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She is one of the many family members of Pantex and Y-12 employees serving in the nation’s military. As Armed Forces Day is celebrated, the military families of Pantex and Y-12 provide a clear and tangible link to the important missions of the sites but also a unique set of challenges…and worries.

Being part of a military family has challenges and benefits unique to military service. As a U.S. Army veteran myself, I know well that servicemembers give up a lot of freedoms to protect our nation, but so do the families supporting them. These families are often unrecognized for their role in service to the nation. They often don’t have a choice regarding where they will live and work.

The servicemember is deployed for months at a time, leaving the family behind to deal with the home front.

“We never realized how much those in the military sacrifice, along with their families, until now,” Felecia said. “We had taken for granted all of the family gatherings or special occasions that our daughter would now be unable to attend.”

Pantex Procurement Engineer Thomas H. has two sons and a daughter-in-law serving in three different locations, and, while he’s proud they are serving their country, he misses the time he gets to spend with them.

“Life from the aspect of military commitment means that the relationships are carried through phone and online communication,” Thomas said. “We sacrifice a lot of free-range visits for the schedule that is set by the military. If we’re lucky, the Air Force and Army block-leave assignments allow us to have everybody together at once, but most of the time, we only get a week with each of them –– once in the summer and once in the winter/holiday season.”

That longing for togetherness as well as concerns for safety are heightened when the servicemember is deployed to a combat environment. The uneasiness of whether or not you’ll see a loved one again never really leaves the mind.

“The most challenging part of being a military family is when the servicemember gets deployed to a remote location and communicating is very limited,” said Lisa H., information specialist in CNS Communications at Y-12. “This is especially challenging when the remote location is in a war zone. When your family member is away, you try to keep busy with day-to-day challenges of life, but your mind is always on the one deployed.”

Those extended deployments can stress the family environment, but they also create opportunities.

Rose R. stands with her husband, Major Brennan R., at his promotion ceremony.
Rose R. stands with her husband, Major Brennan R., at his promotion ceremony.

“Deployments will change your spouse, cause your kids to grow up too fast, stress your marriage, and provide an amazing opportunity for growth,” said Michele M., Pantex Performance Excellence Disciplined Operations lead. “Through my husband's military obligations of weekend drills, schools, and deployments, I have grown into a stronger person. I learned to balance keeping a household going, working a full-time job, meeting the varied demands of four kids, continuing my education, and taking care of myself.”

Rose R., Y-12 administrative assistant for Nuclear Safety, describes her life as an adventure.

“Being a military family is different to lives as nonmilitary families, as expectations for your level of flexibility and resiliency are much higher than in regular civilian life” Rose said. “We have moved 7 times in the past 14 years to places like Vicenza, Italy; Tunis, Tunisia; and my husband is currently stationed in Bamako, Mali. It can be difficult to plant deep roots anywhere, but you have roots far and wide, across the U.S. or the world, wherever your posts may be.”

Like their active-duty counterparts, many military families develop deep bonds with other families they’ve been stationed with.

“Your military friends and associates become your family members, especially when serving overseas,” Lisa said. “You are in a small, remote group with the same purpose. They are family you will always maintain contact with, just as you would your immediate family. If you need help, your ‘family’ will be the ones there to assist.”

The bond that military family members who work at Pantex and Y-12 share with the armed forces also strengthens their sense of pride to be a part of the sites’ missions, knowing the work they do directly affects their servicemembers’ lives.

Thomas stated, “My job at Pantex ties me to a deeper sense of patriotism than I had before because I did not serve in the military, nor did my father. I have a deeper understanding knowing that what we do ends up in the hands of the generation I took part in raising to go forward and protect the world. That connection, and the opportunity that Pantex provides for them as a career option once their enlistment completes, gives me great pride in what I do.”

As both seen and unseen sacrifices continue to be made daily for the protection of our nation, Pantex and Y-12 would like to say “thank you” to all active servicemembers, veterans, and military families for all they have given in service to this country.