06/29/09 — While husbands serve, life goes on

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While husbands serve, life goes on

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on June 29, 2009 1:46 PM

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Nicole Tobey, left, wife of Staff Sgt. Matthew Tobey and Jasmine Rodriguez, wife of Staff Sgt. Homar Rodriguez, are more than just co-workers. Both are waiting for their husbands to come home from the desert.

Nicole Tobey takes pictures of her stomach from time to time, so her husband, Matthew, can watch it grow.

He isn't there to see it in person.

He boarded a plane a few hours after his wife's first ultrasound.

So instead of feeling his baby kick for the first time, Matthew relies on Nicole to share the experience of her pregnancy via e-mail and 15-minute phone calls.

The Air Force staff sergeant is one of hundreds of 4th Fighter Wing airmen currently stationed at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Our first appointment was the day he left, so he got to see the ultrasound," Nicole said. "But he's missing all the little things."

And he isn't there to help his wife manage their 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son -- to fill in for her when she needs a break.

"It's hard being at home alone with two kids and another on the way," she said. "It's a lot to handle."

But luckily, Nicole found someone to lean on until her husband gets back from the desert -- a co-worker at Immediate Care, a healthcare facility tucked off Wayne Memorial Drive.

Jasmine Rodriguez insists her friend has it worse than she does.

Her husband, Homar, is another staff sergeant deployed to Bagram from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, only she doesn't have a pregnancy to go through alone -- or children at home to raise.

But like Nicole, she, too, has been sending countless pictures of "change" to the desert.

"We are building our first house," Jasmine said. "When he left, they just had the stakes up, but then it started going up in the blink of an eye.

"He's like, 'I can't believe I'm missing all of this.'"

Hundreds of families living on and around Seymour Johnson are in the middle of four-month separations.

And others must wait much longer for their loved ones to return from tours at war.

But like Nicole and Jasmine, each are finding ways to cope.

"We are our support," Nicole said, turning to Jasmine. "We are fortunate that we have each other."

"We try to look out for each other, but it's still hard. You're used to (your spouse) being there," Jasmine replied. "I mean, this is my first time outside of Texas. Without really knowing anybody and being out here on my own ... I'm pretty much having to navigate Goldsboro on my own."

And Nicole still has to keep her family -- and unborn child -- strong, without Matthew by her side.

"(I miss) just being a family," she said. "This is our first time apart from each other. The most either one of us had been away before this was like a day."

"Yeah, it's hard," Jasmine added. "And when you don't know anybody and you're alone, the only people you can really count on are the people you work with."

But that's not such a bad thing.

Especially inside Immedi-ate Care.