MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Cindy Smith had only been married to her husband a few months when duty pulled him from their home and into what would become the Persian Gulf War.
"That was hard," said Cindy, a Dallas native. "We had just been married and there I was, alone."
It was her first lesson on the sacrifices that accompany marriage to a United States Marine, and it wouldn't be her last. These days, though, Cindy sounds like a veteran when she talks about deployments. She juggles her two young children, Ryan and Joshua, and talks with understanding about the deployment that will take her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Dwayne Smith, and the other members of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) into the Mediterranean region for five months.
"At first it doesn't hit you," said Cindy, whose husband, maintenance chief for MEU Service Support Group 26, left July 12. "But when it finally comes you think 'Gollee, here it is again. I have to go through another one. You start out with a lot of fears, but it works itself out.'"
According to Cindy, it is also important to have others around for help when you need it. This is where the 26th MEU(SOC)'s family readiness program comes in.
To help spouses new to the military, a group of spouses from the MEU, the Key Volunteer Program, establishes support groups and activities during the deployment. These spouses are also kept informed via a phone tree. For example, to acclimatize spouses to the rigors of a work-up cycle, members of the 26th MEU (SOC) staff coordinated with the Key Volunteers to give a pre-deployment brief to outline the different types of training their Marines and Sailors would be involved in. During last year's deployment the Key Volunteer Program even hosted numerous events such as bowling and movie night to bring families together and keep the lines of communication open.
This is something that should relax Rachell Place, whose husband, Lance Cpl. Ricky Place, MEU radio operator and Hugo, Okla., native, will also leave July 12.
"I don't want him to go," said Rachell. "I'll miss him and worry about him."
The worries are normal, assures Cindy, who said she has grown to love life as a military spouse.
"Yeh, its tough, but I think it's kind of neat," she said. "It's important to realize what (our spouses) are doing. I enjoy having my husband be a Marine; I respect what they stand for and what they do. It's good for our children to see the military life and learn from it."
However, Smith said it is the Marines who should respect what their spouses are doing.
"Deployments are easier on me than they are on Cindy," he said. "I just leave. She has the kids, the bills and the house to worry about. They're the ones that keep things going while we're off doing our jobs. We couldn't do it without them."