News: Married Couple Serves and Deploys together to Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Kenneth Hatten
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Overseas deployments affect many married couples, especially during the holiday season, but two married Mississippi Army National Guard soldiers have found a way to keep their marriage healthy throughout their deployment.
Sgt. David Nelson and his wife, Spc. Tamara Nelson, both of the 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, live and work together as part of Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan, based at Kandahar Air Field.
“We’re still newlyweds; we were married July 1st,” said Tamara.
“This deployment is our honeymoon,” said David. “Not every couple gets an all-expense paid vacation to an exotic location like this. It’s actually pretty cool.”
David works as an automated logistics specialist, tracking essential food shipments across Afghanistan, and Tamara is the Admin NCO (Administrative Non-Commissioned Officer) for HHC (Headquarters and Headquarters Company). She maintains unit records and processes incoming and outgoing mail.
David has served more than 12 years in the Guard. Tamara has 11 years of service. When not deployed, the Nelsons both work at the Combined Support Maintenance Shop at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, located just south of Hattiesburg.
“I’ve been doing the same thing since day one,” said David, “and I like to think I’m pretty good at it by now.”
Tamara said she started out as a flute player in the 41st Army Band, and she also worked as the unit librarian. She later transitioned to CSMS, where she worked as a production controller.
“I joined because I loved the band, and I soon discovered many more opportunities and support systems from my National Guard family,” said Tamara.
The couple is now deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and they say that life here is different, but some things are almost like home.
“We keep busy during the day,” said Tamara. “It took a little while to get used to the 12-hour days and walking all the way to and from our housing unit, but I really can’t complain.”
Both said that being deployed together is definitely better than deploying separately.
“I’ve been deployed before, but it’s definitely different this time, because now instead of the platoon sergeant telling me what to do, I have all that AND the wife telling me what to do,” David said, laughing.
Not every military couple gets to share quarters during a deployment, and David acknowledged that their unit was instrumental in making their living arrangements possible.
“Our command did something for us that I can be nothing but thankful for,” said David. “We get to see each other every day, we get to go do stuff together, and our command has been extremely accommodating, and I’m really happy about that.”
Tamara said that, during their off-time, they try to go out and eat together or catch a movie whenever they have the chance.
“KAF is really not that bad, “ said David. “We even have restaurants and coffee shops here on the Boardwalk. It’s kind of surreal, though, because you can be eating out in a nice restaurant, but everyone around you is in uniform and has a gun.”
While they admitted that being deployed together has many advantages, the Nelsons said that it was very hard to leave their two children, 3-year old Lilli and 6-year old Kenzie.
“That part was difficult, because obviously, everyone wants to be at home with their kids,” said David, “but at the same time, and it might sound sappy, but everybody who enlists does it for a reason, and they know when they do it that this might happen.”
David said that the children are staying with his brother, Glen and his wife, Daphne, and that they are both adapting to ‘life without mommy and daddy.”
“It’s just part of the job, and it sucks,” said David, “and you might complain about it sometimes, but you get up the next day and go right back to work again.”
Tamara said that it was hard for the girls to understand at first, especially, Lilli, the youngest, but she added that they’re both beginning to see that mommy and daddy will be back as soon as they can.
“My baby Lilli had a hard time at first because she doesn’t understand how long a ‘long time’ is,” said Tamara, “and you can show her a calendar and try to explain it to her, but it’s going to be a learning experience for her.”
One thing that really helps Lilli is having her big sister Kenzie around to help her get through things while mommy and daddy are away, said Tamara.
“Kenzie is an amazing big sister and she is helping take good care of her little sister,” said Tamara. “She is in the 1st grade. She had to change schools for the year, but has adjusted well.”
Tamara said that it’s tough, but that she feels good knowing that her children are in good hands back home.
“I miss my children more than anything,” said Tamara, “and I can’t wait to get home and get hugs and kisses.”