Easing the hearts and minds of those at home

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mathew Zapata
  • 512th Security Forces Squadron
Walking out the door to process for yet another deployment, my youngest daughter stepped in front of me with tears in her eyes and pleaded for me not to go. I picked her up, held her close, and promised to be back soon. My oldest daughter knew I was going to be gone longer than I told her sister. She was trying to be strong, but I could see her heart breaking. While I have done this many times before, leaving my family is always the hardest part.

Although I can't mend their broken hearts, I can do my best to ensure my family will be financially, emotionally and spiritually secure while I am gone. I always follow a few steps to help ease my mind and allow me to focus on the mission that awaits me.

Emergency communication services: I make certain my family has my unit information and the number for the Red Cross, so they know how to reach me in case of an emergency. I make sure my family members know to provide as much information as possible, to include name, rank, branch of service, social security number, birth date, and information about my deployed unit and home base unit when calling the Red Cross. For the Delmarva area here, family members can contact the Red Cross at (302) 656-6620 or online at www.redcross.org.

Ensure current identification: Before deploying, we visit the force support squadron to get an updated ID card, which will remain current for the duration of the deployment. It's important to make sure dependents can access the base when needed, whether to shop at the commissary or to access medical care.

Emergency data: For every deployment, it is critical to check that your DD Form 93, Record of Emergency Data, is accurate. I make sure that it isn't just completed, but that it's correct and up-to-date. In the event that something would happen to me while I'm deployed, I want my benefits and death gratuity to be portioned correctly.

It seems like a lot to go through before deploying, especially being a traditional reservist. I have to balance my civilian career as a correctional officer with my commitment to the Air Force Reserve. But, I joined the military to serve my country, and in turn, maintain freedom for my daughters. Taking a few extra minutes to make things right helps to ease the minds, if not the hearts, of myself and my family.