Story by Lt. Col. Cindi King
There‘s a common bond of empathy and understanding between spouses who have experienced the deployment of a loved one to combat. While service members are trained to use their skills in war, there’s no formal training for those who stay behind and manage the home front when military members are hundreds of miles away.
Barbara Livingston, the wife of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., the Adjutant General for South Carolina, welcomed two spouses of officers in the Colombian Air Force during a South Carolina National Guard’s state partnership engagement held at her home in Gaston, South Carolina, Feb.21, 2017.
Yuli Nunez de Bueno, wife of Colombian Air Force Gen. Carlos Eduardo Bueno Vargas, Colombian Air Force commander, and Monica Ochoa de Rueda, wife of Colombia Air Force Col. Juan Carlos Rueda Cartagena, joined Livingston to share ways they managed and held their families together when their spouses were away on missions.
“One thing my husband and I have always made a priority was to be honest with ourselves about his deployment and how it affected us and share these experiences with others,” said Livingston. “It’s important for our Soldiers, Airmen, and families to understand that it is normal to have difficulty and it takes time.”
Livingston’s husband deployed for 18 months to Afghanistan in 2007 leaving her with their four grown children and a business to run when he went overseas. Her husband, as a National Guard Soldier and now Adjutant General for South Carolina, has also supported multiple state response missions during their over 30 year marriage, including Hurricane Hugo, the statewide flood of 2015, and Hurricane Matthew.
“During the devastating flood, I did not want to tell him our driveway was underwater,” Livingston said. “I didn’t want to add any distractions for him while he took care of the state and kept telling him things were fine at home.”
Bueno and Rueda said that their country is transitioning to peace after more than 50 years of war and many policies and changes for service members are still being worked through. Bueno added that in her role as a military wife, she and other wives focus on helping others in the community.
“Supporting those who work in our hospitals is important,” said Bueno. “We have functions to support our elders, which includes veterans, as well as military supporters. We also volunteer to help those in need with items such as clothing.”
Bueno said that the Colombian military has variations to the length of time a military member may be away or in combat, as well as the family accommodations on different bases where they may not be able to stay. She said the military supports the wives with special programs to enable them to meet up with their service member for weekends on a designated base.
Livingston shared with Bueno and Rueda, a hand-out that they give spouses that showcases the “5 F” philosophy of a healthy marriage and lifestyle and that is to focus on faith, family, friends, fitness, and finance.
“As wives and mothers, we stay strong for our children,” said Rueda. “I found my faith in God and through prayer has helped us get through.”
“Even though our countries have experienced different types of separations from our military spouses during combat operations, we share that commonality of needing balance in our lives to make it work,” said Livingston. “We can’t lose sight of other things that are important. Having grandbabies has really reminded us precious family time is and how quickly the years pass.”