Iowans on a Mission: Two military wives form bond over service - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowans on a Mission: Two military wives form bond over service

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The following is the first part in a special series looking at how the families of soldiers are coping with life at home during our state's largest troop deployment since World War II.

For many of them, Family Readiness Groups are a lifeline to stay sane while their soldiers are away.  We talked with two women who have formed a special bond during some trying times.

Darci Ritter is a mom to three very busy boys, ages 8, 5, and 3.  She's used to the balancing act that comes with not just kids, but also from being a military wife.  Her husband, Ross, is currently at Fort Riley, Kansas after completing multiple deployments, including one to Iraq.

"With the Iraq deployment, they were deployed for 23 months.  He was in a Humvee rollover that supposedly wasn't that big of a deal.  But he's actually been in a wounded warrior program now for two-and-a-half years," Ritter said.

Part of how Ritter has coped with the demands of being a military wife has come in leading a local FRG, or Family Readiness Group.  Sarah Rothman's husband, Ben, is currently deployed as a medic with the 1-133rd Infantry Battalion in Afghanistan.  She and Darci Ritter have become good friends.

"You can't go through this alone," said Sarah Rothman, a fellow military spouse.

Monthly FRG meetings are held at sites across the state, and military kids get a chance to play together.  For them, it's a chance to be carefree and not worry about what might be happening with their parents who may be in harm's way.

"When our kids are crying because they miss their daddy, it's like, 'Okay.  What can we do to get them together so we can think of something else?'" Ritter said.

For the adults, the unique bonds formed through support groups help them to overcome challenges that no one else truly understands.

"Having a civilian support group is awesome.  You know, our family and friends, our church family--I cannot say enough good things about them and how much they have helped me and my kids stay sane during this deployment.  But they don't understand.  There's just nothing that compares to talking to people who really get it because they're in the same boat or have been in the same boat as Darci is," Rothman said.

Each of them has gone through the highs and lows that come with being a military wife:  enjoying every email that brings good news to being terrified when they hear about soldiers lost in the line of duty.

"Now with the different individuals that have been wounded and our two soldiers that we just lost, it brings back some of the fear and anxiety and almost the post traumatic stress that wives and family members experience because you worry constantly," Ritter said.

That's why Ritter and Rothman have made it a point to work together to help other families in their same shoes, in coping with their struggles.  And one thing's for sure.  They're all counting down the days to August 1st, the time when the Iowa soldiers currently deployed to Afghanistan will come home.

"It's a very emotional, exciting time.  And it'll be nice to see the family members have that moment of excitement," said Ritter.

And the family of military spouses and children will stay bound together, sharing a connection that will endure long after their soldiers return.

Next week, the Waterloo "Family Readiness Group" will have its last meeting before the soldiers come home. 

Be sure to tune in Monday night at 10, as our special series on military support continues, with a report from Lauren Squires.  Darci and Sarah from this story will also appear live on Today in Iowa Monday morning, during the 6 a.m. hour.

Additional Note:

Since we visited with Darci & Sarah, a total of four soldiers from Iowa have been killed in Afghanistan this year.  Another one dozen have been injured.

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