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    Mobilized Reserve Sailor, A Single Mother: Battling Family Separation During A Global Pandemic

    Hometown Hero

    Photo By Petty Officer 1st Class Shannon D. Barnwell | NORFOLK, Va. (April 1, 2021) - Yeoman 2nd Class Tina James (left), from Hickory, N.C.,...... read more read more

    Amidst a global pandemic due to the widespread outbreak of Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19), millions of Americans and their families have been deeply affected, including those serving our country's military. The lives of service members, active duty and reserve, has drastically changed from what they once knew, especially those deployed away from their families during this crisis.

    With COVID-19 safety protocol and travel restrictions in place, thousands of DoD personnel including U.S. Navy Sailors on active-duty orders have not traveled more than 50 miles of their current duty station without having a risk assessment of health conducted and travel itinerary approved by their chain-of-command. Yeoman 2nd Class Tina James, a single mother from Hickory, North Carolina, is one of the many Sailors battling being mobilized away from family during the pandemic and the commitment to serve.

    YN2 James, a 12-year veteran, joined the Navy Reserve in February 2009. At the time of her enlistment, her daughter, Brittany, was 16 years old, and her son, Brennan, was six years old. YN2 said, "I joined the Navy for the greater good. I felt like there was more for me to do in this world besides work and come home as a civilian."

    After spending the first nine years of service as a drilling reservist "weekend warrior," in June of 2018, YN2 mobilized for the first deployment away from her family, "boots on ground" at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa, assigned to Command Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). While deployed, she worked in Joint Logistics (J-4) as the Non-commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC), writing and preparing evaluations, awards, and correspondence for over 120 military personnel transitioning in and out of her assigned department. At the end of her 365 plus day tour of duty, in late August 2019, she was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal for her support and valued customer service to the CJTF-HOA community before returning home to the states.

    Following deployment to East Africa, she reintegrated back into her civilian life and went back to her position as a Practice Coordinator at Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, N.C. After several months back on the mainland, YN2 volunteered for her second mobilization assignment; this time, she stayed within the United States at Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center (ECRC) in Norfolk, Va., approximately a 5-hour driving distance to her hometown. But not too long after accepting orders to ECRC in early 2020, the world as she knew it took a turn for the worst and plagued by COVID-19, which would eventually cause a nationwide lockdown. With an optimistic mindset, YN2 honored her commitment, stayed the course to be mobilized to Virginia in hopes that she would still be able to see her family during off-duty weekends or take periodical leave. Unknown to her at the time, that sadly would not be possible once on orders.

    She faced a challenging start to the year with COVID-19 looming and had to work through her civilian employer, reducing hours and benefits. YN2 remained optimistic, stating, "the mobilization process went fairly smooth because I knew what to expect since I had mobilized before," said James. She would go on to report to ECRC in June 2020 to start her 12-month mobilization.

    YN2 James would be separating from her 17-year-old son Brennan for the second time in two years. Brennan is a Senior two-sport athlete at Maiden High School in Maiden, N.C. He has completed basketball season and is nearing the end of football season without his mother attending any of his games due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

    "Her time in service has been more difficult to deal with now than it was when I was younger because she's missed half of my high school years, including my senior basketball and football season," said Brennan. "But I know it's for the betterment of our family," he would add.

    Since being assigned to ECRC, YN2 said, "It has been tough not being able to travel home to see my son, and it's not a day that goes by without thinking of him and making sure I call to check in on him." She also keeps up with all his sports activities via social media. Although they are no longer together, having his father's support has been a tremendous help and relief, knowing Brennan has someone to look after him while she is away on orders.

    YN2 James currently works in the processing department at ECRC, providing customer service to all mobilized Sailors like herself, who are transitioning to their ultimate duty station.

    "Serving at ECRC with YN2 James always makes me think of my favorite Colin Powell quote, "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier." Each day she puts those words into action with her quality service to each Sailor she encounters. When I am in my office and hear that infectious laugh, it makes me smile. We will miss her when she demobilizes." said John Wood, the Fleet and Family Services Liaison.

    James has recently requested to take leave to see her family this coming month, in time to celebrate her son's 18th birthday.



    Date Taken: 05.04.2021
    Date Posted: 05.04.2021 14:39
    Story ID: 395607
    Location: NORFOLK, VA, US 
    Hometown: HICKORY, NC, US

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