Time of transition

Time of transition
There was a time when Wendy and Paul Pederson were living normal lives in Vermillion.

Wendy could count on her husband, who is employed as a Clay County deputy sheriff, to provide the support one usually expects from a spouse. He kept the grass mowed and the family car running. He helped with grocery shopping and all of the work involved with raising the Pedersons' two young daughters, Sadie, 3 and Paige, 17 months.

Most importantly, he, as all good husbands do, served the role as his wife's closest companion.

Suddenly, his country needed him. His service as a Gunners Mate 2nd Class in the U.S. Navy Reserves forced Paul to leave his family as he was shipped out to participate in the war against terrorism in 2005.

His unit mobilized to San Diego on Feb. 28, 2005. He eventually arrived at Camp Patriot, the Naval base at Kuwait on April 17, 2005.

"We were on an in-shore boat unit," he said. "We had 34-foot patrol craft and we patrolled the harbors."

Paige was only three months old when Paul left in February. "When I went overseas in April, she was five months old," he said. "Paige was just getting to know me as her dad, and to Sadie, I was dad, so it was hard."

Wendy was unwittingly

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thrust in the role of a single parent of two very young children.

"You just don't get any breaks," she said. "You don't get to crawl back into bed if you're sick because there's no one else here to take care of them."

Wendy had only been employed in her current job as secretary at the Physicians Assistant Department at The University of South Dakota for two months when Paul was called into service.

"For the year that he was gone, I don't think there was a single night that I was able to sleep the entire night," she said.

Paul and Wendy had the ability to instant message each other to keep in contact on a daily basis. That helped alleviate some of Wendy's concerns.

But Paul was still half a world away, near a land in close proximity to Iraq, which was being attacked by the United States at the time.

"When they fired on those ships in Jordan, he was changing ships that day, and all of that day I was worried," Wendy said. "He didn't get on until about 5 o'clock, and he knew right away I was going to ask about that.

"Fortunately, he was just fine," she said. "He wrote back and said he was quite a ways from where that happened."

Sadie was only 2 years old when Paul was stationed overseas.

"She used to walk up to people and say, ?My daddy is in Kuwait,' and walk away," Wendy said.

Wendy tried her best to document the changes in the Pederson household while Paul was gone. But, he said, nothing truly replaces witnessing those changes yourself.

"She would send me little videos of the girls, and I ended up seeing them grow up (on a screen) without actually seeing them growing up," Paul said. "I had never heard Paige giggle before. I first heard that on a video."

Paul returned home Jan. 10 and celebrated Christmas with his family during six days of leave.

He then had to travel once again to San Diego for a week of de-mobilization.

"I was completely done on Jan. 21," Paul said.

To his surprise, he discovered that he wasn't able to simply continue living the same life at home as before.

"I thought I was able to just jump back right in," he said. "I know the first two weeks I was home, I was nothing more to these two," he said, referring to Paige and Sadie, "than a great big guest.

"Mom was the disciplinarian, Mom was the one they went to if they had a boo-boo or some other problem," Paul said. "If Sadie fell down, she didn't want to come to me; she'd go to her mom."

He learned that it would take time for his family to re-adjust to his return as a member of the Pederson household.

"There was a little more transition than I thought there would be," Paul said.

Wendy took time off when Paul was home on leave. She discovered that the best thing she could do was return to her job when Paul's stint with the U.S. Navy Reserve ended.

"He had to spend time with them without me being there," she said. "Otherwise, they would just keep coming to me."

Time, it turns out, has been Paul's best ally in this period of transition.

"They (Paige and Sadie) are getting used to me being around now," he said.

Prior to leaving Kuwait, Paul and other members of the military were provided the services of an ombudsman who offered advice on how both members of the military and their spouses could adjust to a loved one's return.

"A lot of guys I was with just blew it off, saying ?Things aren't going to change,' " he said. "But things had changed at home. People definitely should attend the briefs and get any information they can from the ombudsmen. It was a great help to me, when I was home for the six days, to know that things weren't going to be the same as before I left, and there was definitely some readjustment."

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