BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- (April marks the month of the Military Child.)
When Master Sgt. Zachery Mleko deployed in 2013, he realized he was answering his nation's call to protect and preserve freedom. It wasn't the first time the Air Reserve Personnel Center system requirements analyst had deployed, but to his wife, Jamie Mleko, of 15 years and each of his six children, they held onto every minute before he departed.
Little did he know one member in his family was taking it all in moment by moment on the way to the airport.
The deployment experience provided Mleko's oldest son Josiah the emotion to write a poem entitled 'Deployed.' It described what his family endured the day his father left for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. It also conveyed how excited they were when he returned home just before Christmas.
Josiah's poem was a homeschool assignment at the Mleko Christian Academy, where the Mleko's have homeschooled their children since 2000.
Zachery Mleko said homeschooling has been everything he's ever wanted and more.
"It is highly rewarding and Jamie has taught three of our kids how to read so far. The smaller classroom environment allows her to give extra time to the kids that need it more, versus them falling behind in a 30-kid classroom public school. We also have the freedom to teach them a curriculum they wouldn't receive in a public school," he said. "There's plenty of other opportunities for socialization outside of public school, too, like going to park a lot, field trips and church activities."
When it came to writing about his father's deployment, Josiah had no problem putting words on paper regarding his emotions.
"It was easy because I knew what happened, so I knew what kind of stuff to write down," Josiah said.
Mleko is a 15-year Air Force veteran who sees the poem from a father's standpoint and is keen to point out there are other service men and women still in harm's way.
"I thought it was awesome that Josiah can express himself that way; I was touched," he said. "However, we are praying for the families who are still dealing with moms and dads being away. We know exactly what they are going through since we've done it twice now in Iraq and Afghanistan."
While Josiah said it's "super good" his father is home, he added he and his family had to stay focused while his dad was away.
"I was really sad when he was gone. I'd cry and pray for him when I thought about him," Josiah said. "But we kept busy by doing a bunch of stuff. We went to the zoo, played outside and saw the movie 'Frozen.'"
In the meantime, the Mleko's have gotten back to their daily routines and, as Jamie Mleko said, having Zachery home means life has returned to normal.
Yet normalcy can change from moment to moment before a deployment and, every now and then, it can be captured in the words from a child.
By: Josiah Mleko
Mleko Christian Academy
My dad was wearing his suit,
He looked cool,
But he seemed sad.
We all were at the airport,
We were heartbroken
We said bye,
He said bye.
He was now gone.
We watched his plane go.
He was at Afghanistan
It was dumb,
It had a lot of violence.
It had mountains.
We were still sad,
Some months later he came back!
We were all together again.