Support is available for families of Oklahoma troops

Oklahoma National Guardsmen deployed to Afghanistan number more than 300, with 250 more being deployed in the next year, spokesman Col. Max Moss said.
BY HANNAH COVINGTON hcovington@opubco.com Published: June 17, 2013

Like clockwork, the Oklahoma National Guard also calls once a month to check in.

They ask how she's doing, about the girls and if she needs anything.

“It's nice receiving a call from the Guard just to know they're always there,” she said.

A monthly call to families of deployed troops is part of the Guard's Yellow Ribbon Program. It educates families on resources and services available before, during and after deployment.

Through its family programs, the Guard also offers legal referrals, advice on finances and health care changes and practical assistance for those lacking the close family support Argyle enjoys.

“We're here to act as a conduit,” said Lori Gill, family assistance coordinator for the Oklahoma National Guard. “We work to take care of problems at home so guardsmen don't have to worry about them while they're gone.”

Margie Solis, 33, accompanied her husband, Staff Sgt. Chris Solis, to her first Yellow Ribbon meeting June 1 in Norman.

They have been married for seven months. Her husband, 30, leaves for Afghanistan at the end of the summer.

Solis said the presence of the Guard is comforting as she navigates her first year without her husband.

“Chris' mom and dad live by us, but they stay busy, and my mom is older, so it's nice to know that the Guard support is there if you need them to talk to or ask questions,” she said.

The couple left their five children in Mangum, a city almost three hours southwest of Oklahoma City, for the weekend. They enjoyed one of the last opportunities they have as newlyweds, alone together on the same continent, before he deploys.

During the sessions, they heard about where to buy medicines, how much lower health care will be and what income changes to anticipate.

So many things to remember.

But the Solises aren't worried about any of them. They just think of the children.

“The hardest thing for me is not having him as the extra support with the kids and all their activities,” she said. “I'm one person trying to get four and sometimes five kids all to the right place.”

She also will miss having her husband to call when the kids are driving her crazy.

“Since I won't be there to vent, maybe she'll call them and vent on the Yellow Ribbon personnel,” the soldier said, laughing.

They admit they're worried about the transition but know the Guard offers free counseling and advice for spouses and children throughout the process — and even after the soldier gets home.

“They are always in contact with the families at home and will send resources out there to the house if needed,” Chris Solis said. “They'll even repair a fence if a tornado blows it down.”

Finding a new normal

Family and friends make Argyle's days easier, less lonely.

Evenings are the hardest. Nights can be long.

After she puts the girls to bed, sometimes they read the book Dad recorded. Riley's favorite page is the last one. She knows it by heart.

I will miss you every day that I'm gone, but read this book often. Also, tell mom how much I love her and that I will miss her.

In the dark, quiet moments, Argyle enjoys sitting down to watch this season's “The Bachelorette” as the girls read their book.

At night Argyle thinks of her husband — and of the people that have helped pull her through the days he's been away.

“A lot of soldiers' wives don't have the support that I do, so I'm very fortunate that I have it,” she said. “It definitely helps.”