SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. - Editor's Note: Airmen leave their families due to deployment taskings in support of different operations each year. Having to leave family members to fulfill these tasks can bring about several challenges on the home front. This article is part one in a three part series on a USAF technical sergeant and his wife who find themselves faced with such challenges after receiving exciting, but shocking news while separated due to a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Warm tears stream down her face as she gives him one last hug. He reassures her that everything is going to be fine.
They've done this before, but the pain never subsides.
As he makes his way out of the deployment transition area with the rest of his unit, he looks back at his wife and waves goodbye one last time.
To him, this deployment seems like all the others, but there's one thing he doesn't know--his wife is pregnant.
Tech. Sgt. Kevin Grabowsky, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron production supervisor of munitions storage, deployed in October 2012 from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Grabowsky is serving a six-month tour with the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron as the production supervisor of conventional munitions.
"We build and maintain all the munitions: bombs, missiles, flares and gun ammunition for several different airframes across the wing," Grabowsky explained.
After just a few weeks of adjusting to the challenges of deployment and ensuring the Airmen he oversees were taken care of, Grabowsky got exciting but shocking news. His wife Edith Grabowsky informed him she was pregnant.
With limited means of communication, Grabowsky received the news from his wife in an e-mail.
"I took a picture of the actual test on the box where it shows you what the results should look like," Edith explained. "The line indicating the test was positive appeared so faint that I thought I was seeing things. I sent Kevin the picture in an email asking, 'Do you see what I see?' His initial reaction was, 'Are you serious?'
As he continued looking at the image attached to the e-mail, Kevin did his best to really let the news sink in, he said.
"I was a bit shocked," Kevin added. "We had been trying to have a child for awhile before I left, but it was not working out. We decided we were just not yet meant to have a child."
On Jan. 17 the Grabowsky's found out they are having a baby girl, who they plan on naming Renate Keller Grabowsky, they said.
As the thought of his wife being pregnant with their new baby sank in, Kevin began brimming with enthusiasm.
"I am really excited it has happened now," said Kevin. "I think this is working out for the best."
While the Grabowsky's rejoice about their first child, they know there will be challenges on the horizon as Kevin is nowhere near the completion of his tour and will still have to spend several months away from his wife as she goes through the stresses of carrying a child.
In addition to her pregnancy, Edith also transitioned from South Carolina to Kentucky so she can take care of her mother who is terminally ill with cancer. This is, no doubt, an added emotional and challenging factor for the Grabowsky's as they work to stay strong throughout Kevin's tour, the couple explained.
With thousands of Airmen deploying to numerous areas of operation each year, many of them are faced with the same challenges that the Grabowsky's are; a wife working through a pregnancy and other difficult situations while her husband is away.
Because of this, the Grabowsky's want to share their story and how they are managing to keep open lines of communication with each other about their pregnancy and the actions they take to keep their marriage strong during stressful times.
"When it comes to coping with our situation, I mostly brag about my wife and show off ultrasound pictures of our baby to my co-workers," Kevin said. "Edith and I do our best to Skype whenever she has an appointment, so at least it's almost like I am with her."
As technology rapidly advances, new electronics that come out work in the Grabowsky's favor when it comes to creative ways for Kevin to be involved with Edith's pregnancy while still being engaged and focused on his mission in the war zone.
"Before Kevin left, we bought a seven inch tablet for him to use not knowing about the pregnancy," Edith said. "But he carries it with him all the time now, so I try to schedule my obstetrics appointments on his day off, to make it more convenient for him to join in via Skype. This way he can ask the doctors any questions he may have in regard to our child and my health."
In addition to their natural concern for each other's well-being, the Grabowsky's realize their pregnancy, while exciting, can be an added challenge to their marriage due to the fact that it's in conjunction with Kevin's deployment and Edith's mother's crucial situation in Kentucky.
"I think that any couple going through this type of situation has to be strong but flexible," Edith explained. "You have to listen to and respect each other's needs. Communication is such a huge factor in how we survive. If you aren't able to adapt to the ever changing situations in the location they're at, it will completely affect your life at home without them, and in turn, make things more difficult upon their homecoming."
Though the Grabowsky's situation isn't ideal, they believe this experience, while tough, has the potential to only make their marriage and family stronger.
They plan to one day tell their daughter the story about Dad fulfilling a commitment to his country while Mom stood strong on the home front to support Dad and give birth, the military couple exclaimed.
"One day I will explain to our daughter that even though Dad was half-a-world away, he was very involved with everything going on back home from the beginning," Edith said. "I'll explain that if he could have chosen to be here, he would have. But he made a promise and commitment to protect and defend this great country, and that's what he did. And because this was our first challenge that we faced as a true family, we began it with strength and determination, and we will continue to make it through life's challenges the same way."