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Military Families Gear up for Goodbyes

By Amanda Salem

According to the Huffington Post, President Barack Obama may be softening the blow of his plan for a 30,000-troop surge to Afghanistan by setting an exit strategy for July 2011. However, if you ask one of the many Marines gathered at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina Monday — exit strategy or not — it’s the support of family that gets them through their deployment overseas.

President Obama announced the surge last week, which has left many military families gearing up, not only for war, but for goodbyes. Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the group at Camp Lejeune, “You don’t do it alone … You do it with phenomenal family support.”

One relief for military families may be the news that, according to Army leaders, the troop surge will not affect deployment length. In other words, troops won’t likely see 15-month deployments. However, that relief is just a small step.

“I don’t think when you have X number of deployments under your belt that it makes it any easier – you just know what to expect,” Marine Capt. Eric Meador told reporters Monday.
Brig. Gen. Jeff Mathis, who is an acting commander of Fort Lew is in Washington State, meets with families regularly and told CNN consultants are trying to relieve stress in any way they can. Brig. Gen. Mathis also says he’d like to see a longer stretch at home for troops between deployments.

Although military families know their loved ones will always answer the call, they also know they have support in each other. Through advice, a listening ear or just someone to worry with, families and army officials are hoping to support the very thing that keeps the troops going while they are thousands of miles from home. Because every moment a birthday is missed, an anniversary is celebrated through an e-mail, or a “good night” is whispered into thin air, each family knows a hero simply wishes to be welcomed home with a hug.

CNN and The Huffington Post contributed to this report.

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