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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Making adjustments without Dad

Sunday, May 11, 2003

While Chistopher Ray plays with his father's dog tags, his mother, Brandi Ray, shows im a picture of his daddy, Cecil Ray.
BENTON -- Unlike most pregnant wives, when Brandi Ray has a craving for a certain food, she can't just call her husband on the phone and ask him to drive through somewhere on his way home from work.

Instead, the young mother is learning to do a lot on her own. Brandi's husband, Cecil, is a U.S. Army tanker stationed in Korea. The couple has a 2-year-old son, Christopher, and Brandi is 5 months pregnant with their second child.

"The most difficult part (of Cecil being gone) is explaining to Christopher where his daddy is," Brandi said. "How do you explain any of this to a 2-year-old? So I just tell him daddy's at work. Holidays are hard, too. He doesn't understand why his daddy can't be there."

This year, the 19-year-old mother plans to spend Mother's Day with Christopher and Cecil's family.

"We're all going to record messages on a video and send it to Cecil," she said.

In April 2002, Cecil started talking about joining the military, Brandi recalled. And although, she's very proud of her husband, she admitted she never thought he would join. "But the more Cecil talked about joining the army, the more excited he got," she said.

In June, Cecil, who attended Kelly High School, joined the army and left for basic training in October. He was home for Christmas, graduated from basic training in February and shipped out to Korea the next day.

"We had no clue what it was going to be like. It was a big adjustment. We were just sure he'd be stationed in the United States and that it would give us an opportunity to make more money, to travel and to make new friends," Brandi said. When Cecil left, it was the first time Brandi had been on her own, she said.

"It really felt like my life was over. I've been dealing with it for six months now and it does get easier," Brandi assured.

Right now, it looks as though Cecil will be home in September for the birth of their child, which is due Sept. 20. After that, Cecil won't be home until March 2004.

One of the duties the young mother faces is keeping her husband familiar to their son.

"Cecil's afraid Christopher won't remember him, but we look at photo albums and every time Cecil calls, he talks to Christopher," Brandi said. "I told Cecil when he comes home there probably will be some adjusting, but a child never forgets his father."

A positive attitude along with family and a weekly military support group meeting in Sikeston are the methods Brandi uses to get through this difficult time, she said.

"I keep reminding myself that eventually he will come home," Brandi said. "The (SEMO Military) support group has also helped tremendously. I like going because it's time out of the house. All of my friends have gone to college so I don't get out as much, and it's great to be around people."

Brandi has even checked with Cecil's recruiting office in Cape Girardeau to see if there was anyone else in the same boat as she is who she could talk to. She's the only spouse in the group -- the rest are parents.

Since Brandi doesn't get to see or talk to her husband everyday, field phones help keep the Rays' communication lines open. He has calling codes, which are like prepaid phone cards, so he calls about three four times a week, Brandi explained.

"Cecil wants me to keep him updated about the baby, but he's such a worrier and having a baby should be a very positive thing," Brandi said. "There's no sense in him worrying about anything because he's thousands of miles away, and if something was wrong, it wouldn't change if he was here."

Unlike her first pregnancy, Brandi visits the doctor alone, she said. It's a lot different with this pregnancy, she said. This would be difficult for any 19-year-old to go through alone, Brandi noted, adding that she wouldn't be able to do it without her family and Cecil's family.

"We knew the statistics of teenage marriages, but we knew from the beginning we'd be together for better or worse, and I believe it's really made us stronger.

She continued: "It's been a big change, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."