Marty Wafford (from left), Candy Peplin and Gloria Hicks, all of Redmond, meet at a localcoffee shop to get online with their sons, all recently deployed to Iraq. The women are starting a support group for families and friends of soldiers overseas.Leslie Pugmire Hole
Outside of the fact that they both lived in Redmond and had worked at the St. Charles Redmond birthing center and NICU, the two women had few things in common.
Gloria Hicks had grown up in military bases all over the country – following her WWII vet father – her ex-husband was a drill sergeant and her two sons were military men. Candy Peplin had very little experience with the military life – her father had done time in the National Guard but spent his time playing in the band.
But when Hicks’ grandson Tony Fernandez and Peplin’s son Mike joined the National Guard and their unit, 3-116 Cavalry, was deployed overseas, the women discovered a deeper bond, a bond they have since discovered they share with many other Central Oregon families.
“I see Gloria as a great resource for local military families,” says Peplin. She knew Hicks’ father was career military and her ex-husband had taught their sons to take apart and put back together M-16s as children, but it was only after the women’s family members were deployed that Peplin learned Hicks had been down this road before.
In 1991, Hicks’s son, James Hudson, served in Desert Storm, and in response she started a local support group for military families. Now she’s ready to do it again.
“We had more than 100 members during Desert Storm and we met for more than a year; I’m still friends with some of the members,” says Hicks, who was laid off from St. Charles in January. “It’s scary having a family member deployed. If nothing else when there is a support group for families, they know they have someone to talk to who understands.”
The women meet a couple of times of week at a local Starbucks to share information, chat, and get online to try and connect with their soldiers. They were recently joined by Marty Wafford of Redmond, whose son Tyrel is also in the 3-116. All three describe their sons and grandson as patriots and indifferent students who were attracted to the professional and educational benefits the National Guard offered.
While there are support services available for families through the National Guard, there are benefits to forming an independent group to supplement those services, say the trio.
“Anyone who has ever been involved with the government knows there’s a lot of red tape, a lot of rules,” says Wafford.
However, one lifeline the three have come to treasure is overseen by the National Guard, a Facebook page dedicated to the 3-116. More than 1,000 participants check in at the page regularly and post questions and updates about their deployed soldiers. On it families share things like tips for mailing packages overseas, local businesses that support military families with discounts and photos both official and unofficial.
“There’s an instant bond with families of military members that I had never realized,” says Peplin.
“Our kids knew each other at Redmond High School but we never knew each other,” says Wafford. “It took this to bring us together.”
The support group, which will begin meeting in January, is not limited to families of 3-116 soldiers but is open to anyone with a currently deployed loved one.
“Central Oregon isn’t known as a military community but it turns out a lot of us have soldiers overseas and they’re on our minds every day,” says Peplin. “People don’t realize (how many military families live in the area).”
If you go
What: C.O. Military Support Group
When: Jan. 6, 6 p.m.
Where: Highland Baptist Church 3100 S.W. Highland Ave.
Gloria Hicks 541-923-8672
Candy Peplin firstname.lastname@example.org