by Jody Kerzman

Just do it.

That’s not only the famous Nike slogan, it’s also Carey Weiand’s motto. Carey is a busy mother of two teenagers – Alicia is 16, Katie is 13. Life revolves around their activities, and Carey somehow balances a full-time job around her girls’ busy schedules. She often does it alone, because her husband is a full-time member of the North Dakota National Guard. That means he is frequently gone for days, even months, at a time.

“Monte was in the Guard when we met, in fact, I met him right after he got back from his first deployment,” remembered Carey. “He was 18 years old and was just back from a five month deployment to Kuwait.”

That would be the first of three overseas deployments for Monte; since then he’s also spent a year in Iraq and 15 months in Bosnia.

“He became full-time active member of the Guard about the same time we started having kids,” said Carey. “Since then, if you add up all his deployments and schools he has attended, I think he’s been gone for about four years. That doesn’t include the week-long trips, or the flood duty, or the weekends.”

Monte is gone right now, this time to Laredo, Texas for a border mission. Monte and his Guard unit have served this mission before, but it was only a month that time. This time the mission is six months. And this time, the mission lands right in the middle of Alicia’s junior season of basketball.

“He was able to skip drill one day so he could make it to Alicia’s basketball game. I’m so glad his boss was okay with that, because it might be the only game Monte will see all season,” said Carey. “He misses a lot of games and activities, which is hard on him and on the girls. The last time he was deployed I recorded all of the girls’ games for him and sent him the videos. We will do that again this time. He won’t see them real time, but he will get to see the games.”

For the Weiand family, it’s just the way life goes. While having dad gone will never feel normal, Carey and her daughters manage to adjust and find a way to make the best of each deployment.

“It’s probably harder on Monte than it is on us,” said Carey. “I work really hard to make sure thing run smoothly for the girls. Our lives are still moving on, even though he isn’t here. I got some great advice from another soldier’s wife years ago; she told me to plan as if he won’t be here, because then if he is here, it’s a bonus. We’ve approached everything like that. The girls understand he can’t be here for everything. Life goes on. It is sad because you just get used to it. But really, you couldn’t function if you just sat around and felt sorry for yourself.”

Carey has made changes to accommodate Monte’s schedule. When Monte went full-time active duty, Carey started working from home. She has been doing medical coding for St. Alexius/CHI from her home for the past 15 years.
“It lets me be a stay-at-home mom, but also a working mom,” said Carey. “I’m here to make breakfast in the morning and I’m here when they get home from school. My job is flexible enough that I can make it to all their games and activities. I always get up at 5:30 a.m. and do a little work before the girls wake up. I even work on Sunday mornings while everyone is asleep.”

Carey is quick to say that being mom and dad is a lot easier now than when the girls were little.

“It is still hard, but it’s a different kind of hard. Alicia can drive and they can both cook, so they’re not so needy anymore,” she explained. “But it’s harder because they’re more aware of what’s going on around the world. When Monte is deployed overseas, we don’t watch the national news. The girls don’t need to hear about every helicopter that crashes and every soldier that gets killed. I do try to protect them a little that way.”

Still, even if they didn’t know all the details of where their dad was and why, Carey always made it a point to show the girls where Monte was. She did that with a huge world map she hung in the kitchen.”

“We would put push-pins in map to mark where Monte was at the time. My brother and Monte’s brother were also deployed at the same time as Monte once, so we had pins in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia,” remembered Carey. “I still always keep the microwave clock to the time zone where Monte is.”

Alicia and Katie have always known the reason for their dad’s absence: they know he’s serving his country, and they learned early on that’s something to be proud of.

“The girls are strong. They have to be. Sometimes they ask ‘why does it have to be my dad?’ and I just tell them somebody’s dad has to do it. Someday they’ll be able to look back in history books and read about the events that their dad helped with. That’s pretty cool.”

As for Carey, she doesn’t consider herself any stronger than the next woman. She doesn’t think twice about fixing a broken dishwasher or shoveling snow. And she has a network of people she can call on if needed.

“As a military wife, you develop a network of go-to people,” Carey explained. “My parents live close, and my in-laws were across the road until a year ago. I talk to my sister in law all the time, and then there are our basketball and volleyball families. They take care of us when Monte is on the other side of the world. People ask me all the time how I do it all. I don’t really think about it like that. I just do what needs to be done. I don’t really know any different, and that’s ok,” said Carey. “I think a lot of women would be surprised at what they really can handle if they need to. Of course I love it when Monte is home, but the reality is, he can’t be home all the time, and that’s ok. I’m proud of him for serving our country, even if it means he’s not always home. We just do it.”