FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Because many soldiers from Fort Bragg’s 82 Airborne Division are in posts overseas, many families are counting the days slowly, awaiting a loved one's return.
Being a parent here at home can be tough any day, but explaining to children that their father or mother is in harm's way is even tougher.
Monica Stamper is just one of the Army wives who is coping with the strain. These days, she has to be everything to her sons while daddy is deployed.
“I'm tired, you know. But you deal, because you're an Army wife and that's what you do."
Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Stamper calls and e-mails when he can, but Monica constantly has to explain his absence to 4-year-old Brock.
"Every time I look at my son and tell him that his dad isn't going to be home for a while, that he’s at work, it breaks my heart. His little face will just crumble," Stamper said.
Brock’s brother, 3-month-old Gabriel, hasn't a clue anything is wrong. His mom is not so lucky. Stamper said she avoids watching the news or reading the paper because there are too many reminders of danger.
"Children's worlds get shattered every day because their parents don't come home," she said.
Stamper just got out of the Army so that she, at least, could be there for the boys. And she has friends, who know what she's going through.
But this military mom said that even with the joy in her life, there is always a little sadness.
"There's no end to the sorrow. Whether it's your husband or someone else's, someone’ dying,” Stamper said. If it is not your spouse, "You breathe a sigh of relief, followed by a pang of guilt that doesn't go away."
The 82nd Airborne Division has lost 121 soldiers in the war on terror, all but 20 of them killed in Iraq. If you count all soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg, the number who have died jumps to 200.