Conversation with a Military Family
National Guard member, Brian Gowen, recently returned home to Bluffton on a two-week leave from active duty in Afghanistan. He had been gone since February, 2007, and is still several months away from completing his deployment. Pink sat down with Brian, his wife Jennifer, and their two teenage sons, Trevor and Bradley, for an honest conversation about this experience. A down-to-earth, likeable family, the Gowens manage to bring humor into even the most trying situation.
Pink: Why did you decide to join the National Guard?
Brian: I had considered active duty, but I'm not very big on traveling, so I thought maybe the National Guard would be a good way for me to experience the military life. I have a lot of friends in the military, and it was mostly about the camaraderie, but then it became an active duty call. You have to remember why you're part of the military, and that's to protect our home front and our family life and all the privileges we have in this country.
Jennifer: He says everyone should go to Afghanistan just to see the people and how they have nothing. They live in mud huts.
Brian: Being away from my family is the hardest part.
Pink: How do the boys feel about their dad being gone?
Trevor: Before I even knew it was coming, my mom and dad were sitting out on the patio and Mom said, "Guess what? Daddy got a promotion in the National Guard." I said, "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" When he started being gone all the time, it was like I was missing a part of me. Then when he came back, it was weird, like a stranger was moving back in the house.
Jennifer: [laughing] Now he's back bossing us all around again!
Bradley: When I walked out on the porch, Mom was crying and I was like, what's wrong? They said Dad was going to Afghanistan, and I freaked out, because Dad has helped me through a lot of things. The first two weeks I just felt sorry for myself all the time, then Dad called and told me to suck it up.
Brian: Not an easy thing to do, I know.
Bradley: Now it's easier because when Dad comes home, he's even harder on me than he used to be.
Jennifer: He doesn't always know how to go from First Sergeant to Daddy and back again.
Brian: The biggest thing is how my wife has held together through all of this.
Jennifer: I've had a lot of support from friends and people at work. And we both have computers, so we can see and talk to each other online. But I don't watch the news or read the paper; I don't want to know what's going on over there.
Pink: What's it going to be like when he gets back?
Trevor: Back to normal.
Jennifer: We're going on a cruise, but the kids are upset because they'll be in school and they can't come.
Pink: Do you feel like your father is setting an example for you by going to Afghanistan?
Bradley: Yes. Mom knows why.
Jennifer: Over my dead body!
Pink: I take it you want to join the military?
Brian: A lot of young people think it's glamorous to join the Army.
Bradley: He's setting an example because he's serving his country, and that's what I want to do.
Brian: It's an honorable thing to serve your country, but I can't make that decision for Bradley. I can only advise him.
Jennifer: Fighting is for young people. I believe there comes a time in a man's life when he doesn't need to be overseas; he needs to be at home with his wife and kids. I'll just be glad when this whole thing is over.