Long Distance Mom

With a lump in his throat, devoted father and husband, Phillip Maker, struggles to complete his sentence without becoming speechless with emotion.

His anguished voice describes his daughters with the kind of love and compassion every father needs when their wife is serving the military, far from home. His children filling the gap that spans for miles on end.

“I have two great daughters that make my job a whole lot easier. Rachel is an outstanding student. She is gifted musically, and she loves to run and play. She’s just a wonderful daughter to have. She’s been one of my sources of strength. And Bekah was put on this earth to make me laugh. She’s my comic relief. When I begin missing Connie, she always finds a way to make me smile.”

Connie Maker serves the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant Intelligence Officer stationed in Guantanamo Bay. Her intel objectives include making sure soldiers and sailors who walk the block are safe and secure. “We monitor detainee activities to maintain that soldiers and sailors remain safe,” she says proudly.  With a workday of 12 to 16 hours, Connie serves under a Colonel in charge of the Joint Task Force at Guantanamo Bay.

“It hasn’t been easy to be away from the girls. I try to call every night as work allows,” says Connie. “I work a lot of hours because working a lot makes it a bit easier. I always say that being gone is easier than leaving. Just because once you’re gone, you’re gone – but having to leave them again is like ripping your heart out a little bit at a time, each time it happens.”

When she gets “home” after a long day at GTMO, she tries to call her husband and children each night in Edmond. She often uses Skype online videos or Instant Messenger to stay in touch. She was deployed nearly 14 months ago, and has returned home on only 4 short leaves from GTMO – a long and arduous period of absence for a dedicated mother. “The girls enjoy seeing me, knowing that I’m okay,” she says. “It’s easier that way. I try to come home every three to four months for at least a week.”

Bekah, 10-years-old, isn’t quite able to hold back the tears like her father. “Sometimes it just gets really hard during the holidays and special occasions because she’s not with us,” she said with glistening eyes of adoration and a quiver in her voice.

Connie’s absence is equally hard on 13-year-old Rachael. “Sometimes she’s not here when you really want her,” she says. “And you only get to talk to her on the phone.”

Like many others, watching the destruction of what’s now simply known as “9/11” was a catalyst for her service. “I felt the need to join, especially after September 11th, because I was so angry that it happened – that somebody would dare come over and take those people from us. I would lay down my life in a heartbeat for my children, but it’s hard to ask someone else to do the same thing if I’m not out there beside them,” she says. “I felt a call to duty. I originally wanted to go to Afghanistan.”

Phillip is a local Account Support Representative for Xerox Managed Services. “My girls are older now than when she first went into the Navy. If she would have gotten deployed right off the bat, they probably would have had to tie me up and put me into a rubber room,” he says with a chuckle. Connie agrees that her girls being a bit older helped her in their decision. “Being older, it’s easier on their dad because they are a little more self sufficient – and they’re very good girls.”

With a tradition that runs through her veins, Connie is loyal to her uniform and proud of her service. “It’s tough, but it’s rewarding in the same way… I’m fourth generation military on my mother’s side,” she said. “I’m the first officer in the family. My mother died when I was 11, but my father said I would have made her proud.”
“In any capacity to serve, it’s an honor for me to be able to do this. I am carrying on a tradition,” she says. “For me to show my girls that as a woman they can grow up to defend their country next to the boy next to you is a
huge honor.”

The adoration of her family, husband and children is obvious. “She makes us proud. Obviously where she’s serving at is a hot button issue in today’s society,” said Phillip. Some of his Xerox customers have even been to GTMO, so their support and knowledge were helpful when he needed encouragement.

Everyone from University of Central Oklahoma student volunteers to the girls’ teachers and schools, and even their pastor have all chipped in with a variety of community service efforts for the Makers. Phillip says other military families, as well as their church, have all served as a source of strength. Then again, as the days grow long, and the nights grow silent without his wife by his side, his girls have never failed to keep his heart warm while he waits.

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