Both deployed, husband and wife miles apart in Afghanistan
4:11 PM, Mar 22, 2011 | by Tony Leys
Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan – What the Van Steenwyks thought they’d brought together, the National Guard tore asunder – temporarily.
Staff Sgt. Amanda Van Steenwyk and Sgt. Seth Van Steenwyk of Sigourney were planning to serve together at Bagram Airfield. They even hoped to obtain married-couple housing, which is granted when available.
Alas, it was not to be.
Shortly before the Iowa National Guard brigade deployed to Afghanistan last fall, Seth learned he’d been reassigned to a combat outpost. He’s serving as a forward observer for mortar crews at the small, spartan base up in the mountains near here.
Amanda is a paralegal who is mainly stationed at Bagram, a huge base that is home to the brigade’s headquarters.
They both happen to be spending a few days this week at Mehtar Lam, a medium-sized base that is the headquarters for Seth’s battalion.
The couple met in 2006, when they both were serving on a large base in Iraq. They ate free dinners in the chow hall and went to free movies in the base theater. “It was a pretty cheap date for the first year,” joked Amanda, 26.
The couple married last April.
Before this week, they’d only seen each other once, for eight hours, during the deployment. They talk to each other daily by cell phone, just as many couples do if one spouse is home in Iowa.
Seth, 26, said that although he’s frustrated by the separation, he and his wife face less stress than couples separated by 7,000 miles.
“At least we can empathize with each other,” he said. “They always say the hardest part of a deployment falls on the one who stays back home.”
Amanda is committed to the National Guard until 2015. Seth is on a year-to-year contract, and he’s unsure how long he’ll stay in. They’ve agreed that they’ll try to avoid deploying at the same time again.
Back home, Amanda is a loan officer, “and the breadwinner,” her husband noted. He’s a recent graduate of William Penn University who doesn’t have a job lined up in Iowa. Amanda has much better access to the Internet than he does, so she’s been searching the Web for employment leads for him.