When Army National Guard Staff Sgt. David Hannan was deployed to Afghanistan last fall, his 10-year-old son, Gavin, was upset. It was the third time in Gavin’s life his father had been deployed, and he felt guilty about having fun without his dad.
But Gavin might have had himself a pretty good time Tuesday morning, when he met Gov. Mark Dayton as part of a Month of the Military Child program at the Minnesota State Capitol. Gavin, his mom, Gayle, and his 3-year-old sister, Reagan, were invited to the capitol rotunda as part of the fourth annual Purple Up! Day event.
The Purple Up! Day program that encourages people to wear purple on a specific day as a visual sign of support for military youth.
“Military children bravely face the uncertainty of their parent’s safety when they are away,” said Army Cpt. Marian Belinski, Minnesota National Guard state family programs director. “It is important for these military-connected youth to know that their nation and community stand by them in support, and that we recognize their strength and the sacrifices they have made.”
Gayle and David are both graduates of Rosemount High School. SSgt. Hannan entered the National Guard at 17 — his parents had to sign a waiver for him — and is in his 20th year in the National Guard.
Gavin was just 4 months old the first time his father was deployed to Iraq in 2004-05. SSgt. Hannan was deployed again in 2008-09, and left to train for his current deployment in Afghanistan last October. He has been in Afghanistan since mid-December.
Being a temporary single mom is something Gayle has simply gotten used to doing.
“In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really seem like it’s that long. When he’s gone, it’s not a constant thing, and we know there’s an end to it,” she said. “It’s not like I have to do this all the time. That’s not an option for some people. Somebody else somewhere else has it worse than we do.”
Technology has allowed the family to stay in touch with SSgt. Hannan while he has been deployed. Gayle and David do a lot of instant messaging, and they frequently set up times for him to see the kids via Skype.
It helps the kids to feel close to their dad, even when he’s not there, Gayle said. One night last week, Reagan wasn’t feeling well. She was curled up in her dad’s spot in bed, with an iPad alongside of her. David, from Afghanistan, was singing to his daughter to make her feel better.
Gavin understands more of what is going on that Reagan does, Gayle said. He’s gone through these deployments before, but this is the first for Reagan. While Reagan understands that her dad went away to work, she’s under the impression his work has him flying around on an airplane, because that’s the last place she saw him go.
“Reagan has hit her slump now. For her, it’s like, OK, this should be over now,” Gayle said. “She’s pretty resilient, but she’s ready for this to be done.”
The family moved to Farmington last summer, after learning David would be deployed months later. They have family in Rosemount and wanted to be closer to their friends and family. It’s reassuring to know they’re nearby, too, Gayle said.
Gavin is a student at Farmington Elementary School. He says his new school is, “awesome!”
He’s made lots of friends at FES, and is staying busy with guitar lessons, wrestling and other activities.
Still, he misses his dad. He can email his dad, and see his dad on Skype, but he misses spending time with David.
Gayle read about the Purple Up! Day activities in an email from the National Guard’s Family Readiness Group. She liked the idea, so registered her family to attend. A couple of days later, she was contacted and asked if Gavin would like to receive the presentation of a letter from Gov. Dayton.