Military Wife's Plans Change After Iraq Deployment

Jen Batara prepares to mail some belongings to her new home.

Jen Batara prepares to mail some belongings to her new home. Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Andrea Hsu, NPR
Ray and Jen Batara, before his deployment.

Jen and Ray Batara, before his deployment. Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Andrea Hsu, NPR
Jen Batara and her in-laws, Saturnino and Maria Raidis Batara

With the car fully packed, Jen and her in-laws, Saturnino and Maria Raidis Batara, are ready to leave for Texas. Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Andrea Hsu, NPR

The last planeload of soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division has left Fort Stewart, Ga., for the Middle East — some 18,000 men and women are moving into Iraq, for a year-long deployment. It's the division's second combat tour there. NPR has been following the impact of the war on soldiers and families as part of our series, the Span of War.

In December, Sgt. Ray Batara was preparing to leave for Iraq and worrying about how his wife Jen — newly arrived from the Philippines — would adjust to life on base while he was away. The Bataras thought Jen would stay at Fort Stewart.

But Jen ended up changing her mind. Like a number of military wives Jen has decided not to stick around the Army base during Ray's time overseas. Jen is moving to Houston to live with her in-laws.

She says the base has been good to her, but she doesn't know anyone. She doesn't have a job.

Sitting on the floor of her empty apartment, she says Fort Stewart feels eerily empty. "This place is like a ghost town," she says.

Being away from her new husband — they've been married just over a year — has given Jen a few anxiety attacks, she says. "It's different, it's hard. Maybe give me a couple of months and I'll get used to it," she says.

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