My dad is deployed to fight COVID-19

By Maj. Brandon Mace | 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) | April 17, 2020

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. —

The Army Reserve is full of amazing Soldiers, but even more incredible are the families who stand behind those Soldiers. Three of those incredible family members are 17-year-old Jonathan Schneegans, 13-year-old Kaylin Catterton, and 15-year-old Lily Mace. Each of their dads are currently deployed with the 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to support the military response to COVID-19.

U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. For the most up to date information on COVID-19 and the military’s response visit https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/.

Jonathan's dad, Sgt. Maj. Schneegans, serves as the 4th ESC's senior enlisted Soldier for support operations. Like most teenagers right now, Jonathan is doing school remotely and just trying to get by while he stays at home.

“I've been hanging out with my family, my mom and sister, taking care of the dogs, and doing yard work,” said Jonathan.

The days feel a little longer, and with his dad gone it can be a struggle, but the family does things to stay connected. Jonathan says they have phone calls every day.

“At the beginning and end of the day he calls us, just to say hello to everyone, and we can FaceTime,” said Jonathan, “then its lights out and do it all again the next day. We miss him but its okay, we know he is going to come home soon.”

But Jonathan says the family member that misses his dad the most is Winston, one of the family's six dogs.

“He has a french bulldog named Winston,” laughed Jonathan, “and he really misses him. Winston thinks he is in the study, but he's not.”

You might think a life with a parent away for deployments and training events for weeks or months at a time might turn a child away from the military as a career path, but not for Jonathan. He says he can't wait to join the military and be just like his dad.

“Ever since I was little I loved to see him in his uniform, it made me proud,” said Jonathan. “He is a good man and people respect him, and that's made me want to do what he does. I don't know yet, but I might go for combat medic.”

Just like Jonathan, Kaylin is missing her dad, Capt. Troy Catterton who is working at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as the 4th ESC's chief of operations forward. She has also been doing school from home for a few weeks, and has created her own routine to get all the work done.

“Right now we get two assignments for the week for each class,” said Kaylin. “I like to get all the school work done first so the rest of the day I can have fun.”

Kaylin says she has been doing a lot of reading to try and keep busy. Just like Jonathan's dad, her dad makes sure to call in everyday.

“We try to talk at least once a day but sometimes he calls on lunch and before bed,” said Kaylin. “I like hearing about what he is doing. I really miss him, but I'm excited and proud of what he's doing!”

Like most military kids, Kaylin's family has moved around more than the average family. She says it is a sacrifice, but that is just part of supporting her dad, the Army Reserve and the Nation.

“We have had to move around a lot, and it is fun to go to those different places, but there is the aspect of not being in one place to grow up or having to leave it behind, but I know it is worthwhile,” said Kaylin. “We have had some hardships and pain, but for what he does, I would move again.”

Kaylin says all the travel and military assignments have taught her to be patient for the times when they can be together, and more importantly to make the time they are together as special as possible.

“You miss being with them a lot,” shared Kaylin, “but you have to be patient, and wait for it, and know that it is important to love and cherish the moments you have with them.”

And Kaylin says she has learned some great lessons from her dad. She recalled a time he came to her school for a Veterans Day event and how it made her feel.

“He came to my school in his uniform, and when I walked down the hall with him he was standing so tall and was so confident,” shared Kaylin. “It made me proud, and made me more confident in who I am. I am proud of how hard he works, he is great father.”

That brings us to Lily Mace. Her dad is the 4th ESC's public affairs officer, and the author of this story. Lily has been passing the time at home doing schoolwork and working on her interests in music and theater.

“It's been weird not seeing people,” said Lily “My whole life I've gone to school. This is like summer break except we are still doing school and we can't go anywhere.”

The week the stay at home order went into effect in San Antonio, Lily was supposed to open a main stage production at a local San Antonio theater. That did not happen of course, but that hasn't stopped her theater study and practice.

I'm in two plays right now and for both of them we are getting on Zoom as a cast and going through the script,” said Lily. “We are trying to stay refreshed on what we can do at home so we can hopefully put it back on stage when this is over.”

When Lily found out that her dad was going to Washington state for the COVID-19 response, she said she was a little surprised, but since this wasn't the first time he'd been asked to go somewhere, she was able to handle it.

“The first time I experienced him being away, I was 5, and for that one he couldn't call every day,” said Lily, “so it's not as hard when it has to happen again because I'm ready for it, and in the military, it is going to happen again.”

Just the other two military kids, Lily is trying to stay connected with her dad. She said she is always a little sad when he has to travel, whether it is three days or three months, but they make sure to communicate as much as possible.

“We try to call or FaceTime at least once a day, just to talk, just see each other and see how things are going,” says Lily. “It's not as great as seeing him in person, but he needs to be doing what he is doing, so it's good enough.”

Like Kaylin, Lily knows about moving around a lot. Since her birth in Fort Sill, Okla., in 2004, she has moved eight times, and that's a lot for just 15 years of life. It is a challenge to make new friends every few years, but with that challenge comes a strength.

“I see people who have had the same best friend from kindergarten, but for me its not like that,” shared Lily, “so because of that, our family connection is strong. They are my one constant. We always have each other.”

Three amazing military kids from three incredible military families. Whether it is a short training exercise, a deployment to a foreign country, or a trip to fight the spread of a pandemic, the connections these teenagers have with their families will see them through.

The 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) is headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The command is made up of Soldiers, Civilians and their Families in units headquartered throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. As part of America's Army Reserve, these units are trained, combat-ready and equipped to provide military and logistical support in any corner of the globe.

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