When Lance Corporal Daron Diepenbruck’s first call back home in six weeks came, his father Jim answered the phone with a mixture of dread and anticipation. “We knew they were in a heavy combat situation and to hear his voice was absolutely amazing. It’s 1:30 in the morning and you lay there the rest of the night because your adrenalin is pumping,” he said in a recent interview.
Cpl. Diepenbruck hadn’t contacted his parents because his unit, the Second Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, was busy fighting Taliban insurgents in Helmand Province.
As you can imagine, not only do America’s soldiers experience stress during times of war, so do their families. Jim Diepenbruck knows this both as a father and as a member of the Northwestern Ohio Mari
ne Parents Organization, a support group for the families of our service men and women.
The group of about 24 members meets once a month, currently at Maggie’s Restaurant in Perrysburg Township. There is no formal agenda. Parents take turns talking about their sons and daughters, where they are and what they’ve been through.
“We call it our chat,” Diepenbruck says. The sharing gives parents a chance to
|The stress of combat
Lance Corporal Daron Diepenbruck, a Bowling
Green resident, poses with Afghan villagers in
Helmand Province. His parents, like the parents
of all soldiers, also feel the stress of combat.
See John Szozda’s column inside. (Photo courtesy
of Lance Corporal Mike Oliver)
express their concerns and ease their anxiety. The group also collects and sends packages of socks, chocolates and hygiene items to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another advantage for new members is they acquire a better understanding of what their son or daughter will go through during boot camp and after deployment overseas. Communication from their soldiers is, by design and necessity, infrequent. Sometimes, the only sanctioned way of communicating is by old-fashioned letter. In addition, there are times when the demand for calls to home far outstrips the available phone lines. Naturally, this lack of communication causes stress. All branches of the service realize this and each of them has Family Readiness Officers to help with the transition. Message boards for parents and support groups also help.
“A lot of it is the not knowing,” Diepenbruck says. “You go to the grocery store or talk to your neighbors and they’re talking about their son going off to college and saying, `Golly, I wish he’d call home.’ They have no concept of what it’s like not to be able to talk to your son even if he wanted to call, he can’t because there is no communication. And, while they might be concerned about their son in college, your son is in an area where there’s IEDs and he’s getting shot at. The level of tension is different and it doesn’t leave you 24-7. You’re always concerned with, `What’s he doing?’”
There’s irony of Jim’s statement. Not long ago his son was an art major at Bowling Green State University and the concerns Jim and his wife of 37 years, Carolyn, had were much different. Then, Daron shocked his parents one day by telling them he joined the Marines.
Jim remembers the day and asked his son why he didn’t join another branch of the service, one that was paying bonuses. His son replied, “Because none of the rest can make me a Marine.”
Daron is a rifleman. He is currently stationed at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. In addition to his tour in Afghanistan, he also served as a radio operator in Ramadi, Iraq. He has been in the service three and half years and when he leaves his plans are to return to college, his father says.
Jim is currently preparing himself for what he, Carolyn and Daron will face when he returns home. “As parents we are concerned not only about our son’s safety, but after he comes home, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and all the things that follow because he was in an ugly spot.”
While in Helmand Province, Daron lost 14 fellow Marines and more than 100 received Purple Hearts for injuries they incurred.
The Northwest Ohio Marine Parents Organization welcomes parents of soldiers from all branches. For information, contact Jim at 419-352-3233.
Members of the Second Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment