THE SALMON FAMILY
Along with the stress of having a loved one overseas, military families are often uprooted, moving from base to base and constantly forced to start over. Shortly after marrying in 2005, Army Captain Richard Salmon and his wife, Melissa, who met at Bergenfield High School, relocated to military bases throughout the country.
“We were living in Hawaii in 2011 when Richard deployed to Afghanistan and our daughter, Katie, was only 5 months old,” Melissa says from her home in Midland Park. “Having a baby is so hard, and then to have your partner leave is terrifying. I was in Hawaii by myself with an infant, and I’d wake up wondering if he was still alive.”
Melissa went back to her mother’s New Jersey home for several months until Richard returned, but it wasn’t the last time she’d face a devastating deployment.
“The next time he left, Katie was 3, and they had a real relationship. She just didn’t understand,” Melissa says. “She was so sad and confused. She’d cry all the time and I’d break down and cry with her. But we lived at a South Jersey base this time so I had family support close by.”
Melissa kept a sticker countdown with Katie until Richard’s 2014 homecoming. “I was worried she wouldn’t accept him back into her life right away, but when she saw him, her face lit up and she ran across the airport into his arms,” she says. “And they’ve been inseparable ever since.”
That will make it even harder if Richard is deployed again as an Army Reserve. “Katie’s so scared of him leaving again,” Melissa says. “For a while, even if he just went to get a haircut, she’d ask if Daddy’s coming back. I think it would be traumatic for her, so I’m praying it doesn’t happen.”
Though becoming a Reserve put Richard at risk for another deployment, he feels his military experience is invaluable. “I’m doing something that can have such a large impact in the world,” says Richard, who believes that military service has given his family a different perspective on life.
“It really shows you what’s important,” he says. “All the little things we get caught up with in our daily lives, you just realize what matters.”
“I WAS WORRIED SHE WOULDN’T ACCEPT HIM BACK INTO HER LIFE RIGHT AWAY, BUT WHEN SHE SAW HIM, HER FACE LIT UP AND SHE RAN ACROSS THE AIRPORT INTO HIS ARMS.” MELISSA SALMON MIDLAND PARK
DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL Katie Salmon welcomes her dad home in September of 2011; father and daughter Facetime to stay close; Katie and her mom created a countdown board to mark the days until Rich’s return. 31