It is nearly 4 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon and Army Major Doug Williams has about a million things to do at home.
First things first — he has to wash the dishes he left out from the night before that he just didn’t have time to get to. Then he has to run a load of laundry, followed by cooking dinner for his two children, Bradley, 7, and Alyssia, 4.
The 24-year Army National Guard solider is visibly tired, his eyes and speech are heavy. Doug carries an enormous amount of responsibility — more than most people would be able to handle. He is an Officer in Charge of a deployed aviation brigade headquartered in Fresno, a father, a soccer coach for his kid’s team, and a student going for his doctorate in business (dissertation phase).Oh, and he has to get to those dishes — they’ve endlessly been in the sink for the past 11 months.
Doug’s wife, Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Catalina Williams, is currently serving a one-year tour of duty in Iraq — her first. She is scheduled to come home in the first few weeks of December.
Every single night for the past 11 months, Doug tucks Bradley and Alyssia into bed and at least one of them — if not both — cries and says, “I miss my mommy.” Doug tells his children mommy will be home soon and they reply, “but you always say that.”
This is the sacrifice of a family — one that Doug says he actually wants to make.
“It sounds weird, and, as crazy as it sounds, I want her (Catalina) to do this. You see, when you’ve served in a combat zone there is different kind of bond that is formed with other combat soldiers. And even years later when you talk to someone who also served in combat you just both know and there is that unspoken bond,” he said.
The sacrifices are nothing Doug and Catalina are afraid of — they know that freedom and safety in the United States comes with a price.
“I think people need to remember that even with all the doom and gloom you hear, this is still a great nation. If you go to places like Iraq and Afghanistan it is clear how great we live here. You know how in high school it’s always better on your home-field. Well, in the business I’m in you want the away game. My family and I are bending over backwards and there are a lot of families like ours — we aren’t alone. We want to go over there; it’s what we train for because better there than here where our loved ones are,” said Doug.
Doug has served two combat infantry tours of duty in Iraq, and about 18 months ago he and Catalina, who have been married for eight years, learned that they would both be called to serve together at the same time. The plan was to have Doug’s mother fly in from Florida and take care of the kids. His father would come out and help when he could. But Doug’s mother became terminally ill and Doug was able to stay behind while Catalina went forward — something Doug encouraged her to do.
“I’m not going to say this has been easy, it’s been tough; but I have no regrets. It’s been good to do a role reversal and see how hard things were for her when I was gone. This has done nothing but make us a stronger couple,” he said.
For Doug his life has become all about precise time management and doing what he can when he can for his kids. He wakes up at 5:30 a.m. (sometimes six if he hits the snooze), gets the kids up, drops them off — Bradley goes to Brown Elementary in Turlock and Alyssia attends a pre-school.
Jeff Persons, Bradley’s principal at Brown Elementary in Turlock has nothing but admiration for Doug. “My wife and I just recently had triplets and we had three children before that. In the last couple years Doug and I have talked and I’ve told him I can’t believe how he does it all — and then he tells me the same thing,” he joked. “But he is a really great guy and I think it’s great what he is doing.”
When asked why he doesn’t hire help, like a nanny or something Doug said: “It’s just not the same because it’s not you. I’d rather just be there with my kids, and, really, this has all given me a chance to bond with my kids.”
In the coming months Doug will have even more of an opportunity to bond with his children and his wife. Catalina is due back in just about one month and recently Doug put in his request for retirement and he will likely retire by April 2012.
To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.