Military families get crafty for dad

Dawn Vreugdenhil picked a pair of combat boots from a sheet of stickers.


"They're perfect," she said. They'd fit right in with the mountainous desert landscape she created on card stock.

Her husband, Robert, recently served in Afghanistan, and this card will be his Father's Day gift.

Mrs. Vreugdenhil finished the card in mid-May. Wives and daughters at Fort Gordon know they've got to start Father's Day presents early if they want their husbands and fathers to receive them in time.

"So many families here have a spouse deployed," said Kathryn Palmer, the post's mobilization and deployment program manager. "Holidays can be tough."

Days like Father's Day often take on new meaning when togetherness is rare, Mrs. Vreugdenhil said.

"When your husband is gone, it's all you can think about. But that's what you do in the military," she said. "You start counting the years apart. There are more of those than years together."

She was one of a few dozen wives and daughters to attend a card-making class at Fort Gordon's Family Outreach Center last month. Many said they planned to include their cards in care packages sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Anything I can do to make the day a bit more special for him is something I want to do," Stacy Nielsen said of her husband, Darrell.

"It's his first Father's Day card," said Mrs. Nielsen, who was pregnant with the couple's first child. "I'm really excited to be a mom and him a dad. It's nice to have something to celebrate with him even though he's so far away."

Tameka Harris recently gave birth to a boy. Her husband, Brian, is serving in Iraq.

"He has a son he hasn't even seen yet," Mrs. Harris said. "I had him four days after he left."

She also was without Brian for their first anniversary June 2.

"He's one of a kind," Mrs. Harris said as she antiqued a card to include in a care package. "He deserves my support."

She said she'll try to get in touch via Web camera today.

"People say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, but I want to see him and know he's OK," she said.

Sometimes, Tracy Smith said, distance also makes the heart restless. Her husband, Martin, is serving in Iraq.

"He calls, e-mails. You just stay busy. You run errands. You deal with it," Mrs. Smith said.

She's getting a box together and filling it with "things he needs and a lot of things he doesn't. Tennis shoes. A lot of snacks. The Cheetos, the snack cakes, all of it."

Mrs. Smith has started a military spouses support group, which will meet at the Family Outreach Center from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday.

"We just really talk," she said. "You find support. You're normal for five minutes."

Vickee Taylor's husband, Michael, deployed to Afghanistan two months ago. They've been married three years, but this is their first deployment.

"It's been a whole lot of transitioning," she said. "He misses us. We miss him."

Mrs. Taylor held a miniature playing card in her hand before gluing it to a sheet of paper folded into a card.

"I think I'm going to write, 'You're the king of my heart,' " she said. "He really is."

Mrs. Vreugdenhil was one of the few to say she'll be with her husband today; he isn't deployed.

"Most years are a sacrifice, though," she said. "I was raised that you do for your country, and I married a man who feels the same way."

The couple has two boys, Mrs. Vreugdenhil said.

"When my husband was out in Afghanistan, my youngest said something to me like, 'I wish daddy was here, but I know they need him more.' Children make the ultimate sacrifice," she said. "They're willing to share their fathers, even on Father's Day."

Reach Kelly Jasper at (706) 823-3552 or