What do you do if you are a husband and wife who are both in the military, who are both going to get orders to go to Iraq, but who also have children? In most cases, what happens is that the couple will make sure they don't go at the same time, so one parent can take care of the kids. And in almost all cases, the Pentagon will oblige, recognizing the hardship involved. But sometimes the issue is more complicated than that.
For tonight's program, we decided to do a story on married parents who went to Iraq at the same time instead of serving separately. And we found a most interesting example. Eric and Heidi Erickson are from Central City, Nebraska. They are both in the Army Reserve and they have three children; boys who are 10 and 4, and a girl who is 8.
Heidi is a gun truck driver and got her orders to go before Eric, who drives a truck that hauls armor. They realized if she went, and then Eric went after she came home, they wouldn't see each other for two-to-three years. But then they thought about the fact that all four grandparents live in the same small town. And if they went to Iraq together, they could both be home in about a year, and perhaps, occasionally see each other in Iraq. So they made the decision to go.
But there was problem -- both husband and wife were wounded in separate incidents.
On a mission to the front lines, Eric encountered massive gunfire. The blasts shattered his eardrums. He did not tell his family back in Nebraska, and although he regularly communicated with his wife in Iraq, he didn't want her to worry, so he didn't tell her either. Meanwhile, 12 days later, when Heidi was driving her truck, a vehicle on the side of the road next to her blew up. The explosion sprayed glass and wreckage, lacerating her face. Heidi too had to go to the hospital, and also told no family members. For weeks, the husband didn't know the wife was hurt and the wife didn't know the husband was hurt.
They both recovered and ultimately went home. Eric first; then Heidi. They had tearful reunions with the children they love so much, and their parents. Just last month, both of them received Purple Heart awards.
Eric and Heidi told us that although it was hard to leave their children, they felt it was the right decision for them because of the care the children's grandparents could provide. Nevertheless, they weren't surprised when their three children told us that not only did they miss their parents, but they were also scared.
We were particularly touched when talking to their daughter Taylor. The little girl had a big smile on her face when we started our conversation. She was so glad her parents were back home and that her life was back to normal. But suddenly, tears just started flowing down her face. I asked her why, and she told us it was because of her memories of her mommy and daddy being away.
Eric and Heidi may have been wounded, but they are still active members of the Army Reserve. And interestingly, they say they both expect to be called back to duty in Iraq. What will they do when that happens? They told me they believe the war is a noble cause, and they say they are ready to serve their country in Iraq once again. I expected that answer from this patriotic couple. But I wasn't sure what they would say to me when I asked if they would both go together again. Their answer was "yes."