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Face of Defense: Busy Lifestyle Helps Family Cope With Deployments

Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Derrick Williams believes keeping busy helps his family, even when he’s not around due to his military service.

“We’re a pretty active family,” Williams said at a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event he attended here in mid-January with his wife, Mea, and their two sons. “There’s always something to do, so regardless of whether I’m home or not, there’s pretty much a schedule and my wife, Mea, does an excellent job making sure that schedule is maintained.”

That busy schedule includes Mea’s work as a business executive, Williams’ civilian career as a Texas state trooper and the active participation of their sons, Tyjae and Jaden, in sports, martial arts and music. Williams also serves with the reserve’s 74th Aerial Port Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Yellow Ribbon Program

Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. It began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Defense Department to help reservists and National Guard members maintain resiliency as they transitioned between their military and civilian roles. Each year, Yellow Ribbon trains 7,000 reservists and their family members in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more at a series of weekend training events such as the one the Williamses attended.

Williams’ sons recognize their busy schedule can sometimes be stressful for their mother and help out around the home, especially when their father is away for military duty.

“I feel I have to be in charge, keep things steady and not chaotic when Dad’s not around,” said Tyjae, 14. “I have to play husband for Mom and help keep everything in order and be the best I can be so Mom doesn’t get stressed.”

Jaden, 11, feels the same way, speaking with a maturity beyond his age.

“Sometimes it’s frustrating when Daddy’s not home because we want to do something but Mommy has to work or we don’t have time to do it,” Jaden said. “I think about the situation and how Daddy isn’t home or he has to do something and Mommy is the boss at her job and she has a lot of work to do. Her schedule is already busy including our schedule, so it’s even more stress for her.”

The couple is pleased with how responsible their sons are.

“I’m proud of our boys and our family because I know a lot of families can be torn apart,” Williams said. “I think it’s been a growth factor for our family because they know Dad isn’t always there like some of their friends, but it’s a way of life.”

Aside from staying mentally and physically active, the Williams family rely on their faith to get through whatever life throws at them.

“Faith is a big thing in our family,” Mea said. “My faith puts things in perspective. Even when we come up against a challenge, we’re reminded that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear. We can get through anything, even a 6-month deployment or a 1-year deployment, we can still do it. In the end, we come out stronger.”

Williams said faith also helps him in his civilian law enforcement job.

“I’m the quintessential optimist, so I’m always looking for positivity even in the most negative situations,” he said. “[As a state trooper], I don’t always encounter people in the best situations. But even in those brief moments, my faith helps me to realize they’re people just like I am.”

Mea believes any family can navigate military life with a little bit of faith to guide the way.

“Tap into your faith and tap into the support system you have,” she said.

Williams also believes goal-setting can help military families.

“Many times, people begin to focus on the fact that they are gone for six months and that becomes overwhelming,” he said. “When I deploy, I set goals for myself to make sure I keep myself busy and make sure I keep my mind occupied on positive things.”

Goal-setting also helps his sons and creates conversation pieces during phone conversations, Williams added.