Drill instructor perseveres with duty & fatherhood while wife heads back to Iraq
By Lance Cpl. Edward R. Guevara Jr.
| | March 12, 2004
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Staff Sgt. Armando Figueroa kissed and hugged his wife goodbye again February.
This was the second time the Company A drill instructor's wife, Staff Sgt. Angelica M. Figueroa, has left for Iraq.
"(His situation) would have overwhelmed me," said Gunnery Sgt. Ronald L. Spence, 4th Marine Air Wing, Marine Forces Reserve, New Orleans. "He's a good father and appears to be a natural at it."
Spence was an instructor with Figueroa at the Personnel Administration School, Camp Johnson, N.C., when Figueroa's wife was deployed to Iraq the first time.
"She left in January 2003 and came back in the summer around the fourth of July," Spence said. "By that time, he was already in drill instructor school."
Figueroa carried the responsibility of caring for a newborn daughter and two sons during his wife's first absence. While serving on the drill field, he does not see his children as often as the average parent, but Figueroa takes advantage of any time off.
"It might not seem like a lot of time to other Marines, but as a drill instructor, it is plenty of time," Figueroa said. "Four hours is like a weekend."
With the limited free time available to drill instructors, he makes the most of what his company gives him, including time to say goodbye.
"They gave me a week of leave to be with my wife before she left," he said.
Although this is not the first time his wife has deployed away from the family, this time will be the longest time, and she is already feeling the effects.
"I miss his companionship. He is really my best friend, and he means more than anything to me," said the logistics and armory chief for Marine Aircraft Group 16 based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.
Because of her job specialty, she is scheduled to be in Iraq for 13 months, returning in April 2005.
"I almost passed out when she told me that," he said.
His wife expects him to support her and send her letters during this prolonged time, which he said he tries not to think about much.
"She said they would give her humanitarian leave for two weeks," said Figueroa.
It has been 11 years since the couple tied the knot in Yuma, Ariz., and 12 years since they first met in Okinawa, Japan, during his assignment extension.
"One thing I love about the Corps is being extended out there and meeting her," he said.
Figueroa's children will be with him today as he graduates Platoon 1149 before taking a seven-week break between cycles. He said he expects phone calls and e-mails from his wife.