Today, on Veterans Day, I am honored to introduce the Parks family, a family who has been serving our country for 9 years. Erika and Joe live on an Air Force base in Montgomery, Alabama with their four boys. On the day we visited them, Joe was home for a brief break from deployment but was returning to South Korea the very next morning for another five-month stretch. Erika says “military families are just like civilian families” with the same parental learning curve, toddler tantrums and struggles, but they’re often functioning as a single parent household, faraway from extended family.
When Joe is away, Erika says it’s hard for her patience not to be stretched thin, but she prefers to focus on how their service benefits their family.
“Our military family experience has made us stronger. Our boys have become more helpful around the house, a great life skill to develop early. They are learning patience in a way that’s hard to duplicate. We’ve all learned to be open and honest about how we feel, which is especially important when there’s so much time and distance between us. Our boys are growing up being able to relate to feelings in other people, with an ability to clearly express their own emotions.”
She also says that being a military family helps distill what is really important to them, which is a strong family foundation built on communication.
“Joe and I talk about everything and anything. He’s my best friend. I need to be able to talk to him about a terrible day with tantrums, a plugged-up toilet, and gymnastics fees. He needs to be able to talk to me about missing our son’s birthday, the weight of his chem gear, and the funny thing a co-worker said. It goes both ways, and I truly believe that developing open communication between parents is the foundation for a strong family. I am very thankful for the video chats that have helped keep us close while he is away from home.”
When we found out that Joe was deploying so close to our film date, we asked if we could follow them along to the airport. I wasn’t sure if Erika would want to have a camera crew around on such an emotional day, but she welcomed it, saying that she is usually the one holding the camera so it would be nice to see the full picture of their family saying goodbye, herself included.
When you watch the video below, I think you will see more than a family making do while their dad is away. Erika is truly Supermom, whether she sees herself that way or not.
Erika thought the video painted a clear picture of her family, “clarified the important things we do,” and helped her “see the beauty in the chaos.”
“Often, I’m so submerged in everything that I lose sight of the larger picture and this video helps me see it again.”
On Veterans Day, Erika usually brings her boys to the local parade. Then she plans to teach them about the history of the holiday, help them write thank you notes to veterans who have been important in their lives, and think about how both military members and their families serve our country.
“If you know a military family, ask them how everything’s going. We get a lot of ‘thank you for your service,’ but it’s nice when someone asks more, shows real caring, and offers real words of support. When someone tells you that you’re strong, or that they’re amazed by what you’re handling, it makes us feel less alone.”
I asked Erika if there is anything extra she would like her husband to know, if he sees this video and reads this post.
“I love you and miss you always. You balance me out, and I always feel wobbly inside when you’re gone, even when I have to be strong and not let it show. We’re in the home stretch of this deployment now, and we’re all looking forward to taking the next step together.”
Please leave a comment in support of Erika and her extraordinary family below.
This post is part of the “Extraordinary Families” series sponsored by Allstate. “Extraordinary Families” aims to show what life is like, sun up to sun down, for families facing (and overcoming!) unique and challenging circumstances. As the nation’s largest publicly held insurance company, Allstate is dedicated to protecting what matters most.