Pvt. Brent Evans probably won't be there for his son Tristan's first words or first steps.
Evans, 20, will leave behind his wife, Amber. They've been a couple since ninth grade. She'll be left to handle their 9-month-old son for a year while Brent Evans and about 3,400 other Oklahoma National Guard soldiers with the 45th Infantry Brigade are deployed to Afghanistan.
A farewell ceremony is Feb. 16 in Oklahoma City. From there, the soldiers will get training at Camp Gruber near Braggs and at Fort Polk, La., before they deploy to Afghanistan in late spring or early summer.
Until then, the soldiers and their families are making final preparations as best they can.
“I feel like we're not prepared,” said Amber Evans, 19. “We've just kind of been blocking it out and enjoying our time together while we can. And it's his first time going, so we don't know what to expect.”
Many of the soldiers and their families gathered recently for Project Yellow Ribbon at the Reed Center in Midwest City. The event brought together groups that provide services soldiers or their families might need during deployment.
The needs are varied, from financial advice to mental and emotional support.
Brent Evans said it was helpful and appreciated. He and his wife have made plans for her to move from their home in Bartlesville to Oklahoma City, where his parents live.
Still, nothing really can prepare you to be away from those you love for a year, he said.
“We've been trying to move her closer to my family so she'll have some help with the baby while I'm gone,” Brent Evans said. “It's not going to hit me until I leave, probably. I don't know what to think of it right now. I have no clue.”
Beyond the emotional challenges are the chores that must be taken care of before one can leave the country for a year, said Spc. Trevor Simmons of Oklahoma City.