by Krystal Smith, daughter of Ted Smith, American Red Cross Regional Digital Communications Specialist
For centuries, the U.S. military has served as the protector of U.S. citizens from both foreign and domestic threats. Over 1 million brave men and women serve in the five branches that constitute the United States military including; Marines, Navy, Air Force, Army and Coast Guard. Military members operate in a variety of disciplines from pilots and linguist to mechanics, doctors, police officers and more. No matter the capacity in which one serves, joining the military is sure to be life-changing.
On May 14, 1982, Theodore (Ted) Smith enlisted in the United States Air Force.
“I wanted more than just a job, I wanted a career,” Ted said reflecting on his 21-year-old self. “I’m from a small town in Illinois and I knew the Air Force would give me the opportunity to see the world.”
Little did Ted know he would not be traveling the world alone. Ted’s first base assignment was to Gila Bend, Arizona. It is here he met his wife, Lori, a fellow member of the Air Force. At the time, military members were not guaranteed to be stationed together. When Ted was reassigned, Lori decided to leave the enlisted ranks to join her husband and begin a family.
Ted, Lori and their two daughters would move every couple years to a new state or country. They would call several states, Germany and Oman home before deciding to retire in Texas after 22 years in service.
Even when the family wasn’t moving, as an active duty military member, Ted was routinely deployed for long periods of time in locations around the world. He would miss birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and more to serve his country.
“I remember going days, sometimes weeks between phone calls,” oldest daughter Holli explained. “Every time the phone would ring you ran to it, hoping it was him. When he was able to call, just hearing his voice was enough to bring tears of excitement. The only feeling better is when he would finally return home!”
“Deployments are challenging for everyone,” Lori explains. “As a military wife, you are left as a single parent. Besides the additional responsibilities you assume, there is a huge emotional toll it takes on the entire family. The military member may be the one in service, but the whole family serves.”
“It’s hard,” Ted states about being deployed. “You try to stay distracted. Focus on the mission and try not to think about home. An impossible task, but you have to try.”
While technology has made it easier for military members to stay in contact with their families, this contact is still dependent upon the location and mission.
“The camaraderie is really the only thing that gets you through those tough days. We [military members] lean on each other,” Ted explained. “We try to take care of each other when deployed together and take care of each other’s families when we are home. When deployed, you just hope and trust someone will be able to reach you if you’re needed back home.”
The Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) division is part of this essential support network. SAF helps family members cope during deployments, locate and arrange transport for military personnel with emergencies occur back home and help veterans transition back into civilian life when members separate from the military.
“I am proud to have served. Being in the Air Force was one of the greatest opportunities I have had in my life,” Ted said. “It gave me my family, showed me the world, connected me to an elite group of patriots and enabled me to be part of something much bigger than myself.”
To learn more about the Service to the Armed Forces visit redcross.org/military. To help the Service to the Armed Forces continue supporting our military and their families, volunteer or donate today.