LA CROSSE, Wis. - How do you measure the sacrifice of our soldiers?
For the Ehlers family of La Crosse, they are about to find out. You see, it is 'D' day, departure day for Navy Reserve man Doug Ehlers who is being deployed to Kuwait for the next year. picture"
They've had 8 months to plan. 8 months with this one looming date. "I sure hope that I can hold it together. I want to be strong for them - but I just don't know."
Doug has been in the military for nearly 20 years, but this is his first deployment...and with it comes a mixed bag of emotions. "It's like starting a new job. It's a little exciting and nervous. I've been in the military this long and I know what to expect for the most part and I know how to do my job. I'm not worried about myself being over there but I worry about them. That's the biggest thing."
"My kids, that's my biggest fear. That and what he's going to end up doing and if he's going to be in a safe spot. I worry about being the only parent. The stress of not being able to tag team. When I get frustrated and mommy needs to take a break. I just want to make sure that I'm still patient."
They've done their best to prepare 10-year-old Maggie, 9-year-old Emma and 7-year-old Gwenna for the road ahead. But on this day, it's so hard understand why daddy has to go away. "I'm really sad. Every night I'm going to go downstairs to say goodnight to daddy and he's not going to be there."
"I think our youngest is going to be a lot more clingy. She already has. Every time I need to go somewhere she says, 'don't leave me.' So we're going to have that separation anxiety with her. The older two, I know they'll have their sad moments, but I think they're going to kind of step it up. They're talking about doing dinner one night a week and doing the laundry. Maybe in the long run it will be good skills that they learn."
"I'm going to miss him. I can't say how much I love him. I really love him."
"We try to stay real positive. We've got to plan things as we go so every month we'll have something to look forward to. Like when Doug leaves, we're going to get a new kitten. They've been really looking forward to that. Then what's next...are we going camping trip. Every month for 12 months and then he'll be back!"
Back at the airport, it's time for Doug to board and the tears begin to fall.
So how do you measure the sacrifice of our soldiers? Perhaps it's in the faces of those being left behind. The ones who must now head home to face their new reality. "I don't want daddy to go."
Or maybe it's in the face of the soldier watching them walk away. The one who now heads off to war.