Mom Jessica Appelberg lives with her children, son Cole, two, and daughter Kate, five months, in Suffolk, Virginia. It’s also the home of her husband and the kids’ dad. However, for work reasons, he’s often away from the family base a lot.
Appelberg and her husband first got together thanks to a shared love of country music star Brad Paisley. They met at one of his concerts following an incident with “a broken camera and one too many beers,” according to Appelberg’s blog, Hampton Roads Moms.
The pair subsequently wed in 2011. Appelberg exchanged her job as a communications director for being a full-time mom. She loves cooking, wine, yoga, hiking and, of course, spending plenty of time with her friends and family. Sadly, however, that doesn’t always include her husband.
That’s because he’s in the U.S. Navy. As a result, he’s often away on duty. Clearly, in this case, serving his country also means having to make big sacrifices when it comes to his family.
Nevertheless, Appelberg married her husband knowing full well that his job could be tough for their relationship, as well as for their family. Indeed, the pair often ended up weeping after seeing how his deployment could affect their children.
What’s more, he missed some key events in his young family’s life. For example, he had to leave his son Cole when he was just over a year old. Then, later, he couldn’t even attend his daughter’s birth because he was away with the Navy.
Of course, little Cole and Kate had no say in the matter. Moreover, the so-called “military brats” – as their mom lovingly refers to them – wouldn’t really have understood why their dad wasn’t present all the time.
Nevertheless, he wanted to ask his kids for forgiveness for the things he had already missed, as well as those he could potentially miss in the future. Things like birthdays, sports games, prom nights. The things that regular dads get to witness as their children are growing up.
In fact, the night before he was sent off for Navy duty again, her husband specifically asked Appelberg if she thought their daughter could forgive him for his absence. What’s more, after reassuring him that the kids would forgive him, she decided to do something else.
Appelberg penned a letter to both her children, explaining why their dad was not always around and assuring them that all would be well. Her touching words were put to paper, so that, when they were older, her children could read them and understand why their dad had had to sacrifice so much.
The letter began, “My dear sweet children, I would argue on your behalf that being a military child is the toughest job in the military. Your dad chose to enlist, I chose to marry him knowing that we were facing a tough road ahead.”
It continued, “But the two of you had no say. An accident by birth made the two of you ‘military brats,’ a role that you both have handled with grace in a way that has made your dad and I proud.”
Appelberg then went on to address her son directly. “Together, the three of us got to grow as a family. Your dad was there to tuck you into bed and be your best bud. But as every military family knows all too well, it doesn’t last.”
“At 14 months old, your dad left for deployment. I’ll never forget the way you cried when we left Daddy on the boat and how you clung to his neck saying, ‘Dada,’ over and over again,” Appelberg continued. “My heart hurt for you. How do you explain to a toddler that their Daddy is leaving for a reason they are too small to understand?”
“The first few weeks were rough. Not only was I pregnant with your sister, but we had to adjust to a whole new way of life,” Appelberg added. “There’s still a long road ahead of us, but your dad and I know you will continue to handle every challenge in a way that will [make] us proud.”
Then, Appelberg reached out to her daughter. “It broke both of us that he couldn’t be there to see you make your grand entrance into the world, but we outwardly addressed the mantra of ‘it is what it is.’ The night before he left, your dad asked me if you would ever forgive him for not being there.”
Appelberg decided to share the letter on her blog, too. Indeed, she felt she was not only penning the letter for her children, but also to give comfort to other military mothers. Then, it was picked up by the Scary Mommy site, which helped it to go viral.
Moreover, the letter received a lot of positive comments from other moms. “Thank you. It’s hard being a mom to a military kid but they really are our heroes,” one wrote on the Hampton Roads Moms blog. “Beautifully written, and a poignant reminder to all us ‘civilian’ types. Thank you,” another comment read.
Finally, Appelberg also had some advice for moms who might be in the same position as her. In April 2017 she told WTKR, “Just hang on, rely on your community, don’t be afraid to ask for help from others around you, because people are willing to lend a hand.”
In the letter, Appelberg explained how she reassured her husband that their children would forgive him. She added, “Growing up as military ‘brats’ is going to be hard. There will be challenges … but always know that together or oceans apart, we’re exceptionally proud of our military children.” What’s more, we’re sure that when the couple’s kids are finally old enough to read the letter, they’ll be just as proud of their military dad, too.