Couple brace for husband's deployment to Afghanistan

By Megan Eckstein

Sunday - 5/1/2011, 12:43pm EDT

Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class James Williams and his wife, Jennifer, plan to make the most of the nine days they will have together between his training and deployment. (Graham Cullen/Frederick News-Post)

Editor's note: Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class James Williams left Fort Detrick in February for predeployment training at Fort Polk and then a seven-month mission in Afghanistan. He and his wife, Jennifer, are expecting their first child in August. The couple have agreed to keep in touch with The Frederick News-Post, which will update their story regularly.

Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class James Williams is nearing the end of his predeployment training, but for him and his pregnant wife, that means time is running out to make some important family arrangements.

Jennifer Williams is due to give birth in August, and James leaves later this month for the deployment, a seven-month tour in Afghanistan to teach a combat medicine course to the Afghan military and police. He accepted the idea that serving his country would mean making personal sacrifices, but the couple is still optimistic he'll be able to use his rest and recuperation time to come home for the baby girl's birth.

"James is 100 percent ready to serve his country, and I'm ready to support him," Jennifer said, though she added that she and James planned starting their family based on James' job, which originally was not supposed to include any lengthy deployments.--

James still must complete two more weeks of training in Fort Polk, La., and then he gets nine days off before going overseas, Jennifer said. The couple plans to split that time among being at Fort Detrick to talk to James' chain of command about coming home in August, visiting her family near Virginia Beach, Va., and taking a short vacation, she said.

James said in an email last month that he wished he could be home to decorate the nursery and help Jennifer get ready for the baby, but Jennifer said she doesn't want his nine days of free time to be bogged down with housework. It should just be about them, she said.

"I would rather make it just more very low-key and slow-paced because he's been working so hard," she said. "Right now I just want to really for those nine days just focus on he and I and having that quality time together and create some special moments."

The couple got a head start on that when Jennifer visited Fort Polk last month. She flew in on a Friday and left Monday. The two toured the base and drove 45 minutes to Alexandria, La., looking for things to do together. They never found anything, Jennifer joked, but she said the long drive through the countryside gave them a chance to unwind and catch up.

For Jennifer, seeing where her husband was training and living -- "a double-wide times two" crammed with bunk beds and dressers, Jennifer said -- was a big help, allowing her to visualize and better understand the stories he had told her on the phone. She's still nervous about being able to adjust to her husband being in Afghanistan, though; he has deployed five times in his 12 years in the Navy, but this is the first time since the couple married last June.

James said his biggest predeployment concern was the well-being of his family.

"It is draining at times when I think about it, but what can I do?" he wrote in an email. "I have a mission to complete, which I will."

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