Conley family adjusting to life during military deployment
Two active little boys greet visitors inside the front door of Rob and Lindsay Conley’s home in Carroll.
Dylan, 3, wants to wrestle. Colten, 1, wants his favorite book to read.
Lindsay, who teaches fifth grade at Carroll Middle School and coaches Carroll’s eighth-grade girls basketball team, wrestles with both boys, then helps them find their favorite toys.
Things have changed a bit at the Conley house since Lindsay and her sons said goodbye to husband and father Rob, who boarded a bus at the Iowa Air National Guard base in Fort Dodge on Oct. 8. He and 60 other servicemen and servicewomen from the 133rd Test Squadron were deployed to serve overseas. Part of their mission is ground radar.
The deployment, which is the first for Rob Conley, is expected to be as long as eight months.
“There are things you just cannot do, things that are priority,” Lindsay Conley said of making some daily adjustments since her husband’s deployment. “It’s a simple thing — it’s ‘Do it yourself or it’s not going to get done.’”
Rob Conley, son of Jim and Kim Conley, grew up in Rockwell City, graduating from high school there in 2006. He joined the National Guard in 2005, and after graduating from high school, he completed basic training in Texas before continuing to technical school for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. He attended power lineman school and works for MidAmerican Energy. His younger sister, Melissa DeLance, also serves in the Guard, in the same unit as her brother in Fort Dodge, but she is not currently deployed.
Lindsay Conley was raised in Manson, in northwest Iowa, where she graduated from high school in 2006. She is one of five children of Tim and Deb Troshynski. Both her parents grew up in Guthrie Center. Her grandparents, Larry and Dorothy Brandt and Len and Leona Troshynski, still reside in Guthrie County.
Lindsay, who earned an elementary education degree from Northwest Missouri State University, said she reconnected with Rob in 2008. They tied the knot in 2013 and celebrated their four-year anniversary oceans apart on Nov. 2.
“I thought I’d be able to manage it better,” Lindsay said. “He takes storm jobs with MidAmerican throughout the year and will be gone four or five days, and I didn’t think much of it, but now it’s a longer period of time, and different stresses are added to it.”
She knows deployments are survivable, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t difficult.
There’s Thanksgiving coming up, and Christmas. Lindsay’s 30th birthday is Jan. 29. Colten’s second birthday, April 15.
“Some of those big things, he won’t be around for,” Lindsay said.
Since Rob was deployed, Lindsay has learned to be even more independent and self-sufficient, she said. She’s had to learn tasks she normally didn’t do before — taking care of the trash, paying the bills and deciding who to call if the tire on her Suburban needs changed.
She’s gone from raising her sons as part of a couple to single parenthood. She’s thankful for Kristie Schultes, who watches the boys during the day while she teaches. For friends like Holly Hildreth, whose husband is one of Rob’s best friends and is on the same mission, Keith and Jane Petersen, Kaitlynn and Zach Kaufman and Cody and Jordan Wiener, who are always willing to help with whatever the family needs.
The Guard unit is very supportive, making calls to families every few weeks and holding family activities each month, and so are the school district and community, Lindsay said.
Staff members at Carroll Middle School are delivering a meal a week, and friends and family have helped mow the yard, clean gutters and put outdoor furniture away for the winter. She’s already had offers to assist in snow removal.
“All of the generosity, thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated,” Lindsay said. “I know I will miss thanking someone. Everyone in our families, my fifth-grade team, the school district and community has been very supportive, and that you can’t be more thankful for.”
Rob Conley, deployed to the Middle East, has been able to call home. His boys blow him kisses through the phone. He sends them pictures of snakes, scorpions and spiders he’s found.
“I get to ride in the combine,” Dylan tells his dad.
“Have fun,” says Rob.
“Love you, too,” adds Lindsay.
Lindsay enjoys the phone calls, even though they come at odd times.
“He’s nine hours ahead of us,” she said. “It’s 11 (in the morning here), and 8 at night there.”
She jokes he doesn’t realize she has stuff to do.
“He calls at funny times and that’s hard, and I’m doing 30 bazillion things, so it’s hard to work all that in,” she said. “You take it as it comes.”
The support she gains from his phone calls helps keep her going.
“It’s hard being the parent that is home; you have to be the lover and the hater, and just all of it all at one time,” she said.
She climbs into bed earlier now. It’s a place she can be a little emotional — “those ‘feel-sorry-for-me moments,’” she said.
She reads a military prayer book her mom gave her and reflects on the reasons her husband is where he is.
“Thankful, blessed,” she said.
On Veterans Day this Saturday, Lindsay will thank veterans and their families, and she encourages others to do the same.
Celebrated on Nov. 11, Veterans Day recognizes all members of the military, those currently serving and those who have served previously, those who have served in times of peace as well as war.
“You have to be thankful for all of those people who have given you all of the freedoms that you have,” Lindsay said. “Some people think those freedoms came free, but there was a price that someone paid for it, and many people don’t think about veterans, their families and those currently serving on a daily basis.”
Students in her fifth-grade classroom have been working on a flag essay, writing down what the flag means to them.
“We do it every year here through the American Legion,” she said. “Working on that wraps around a lot of the ideas of what Veterans Day is about, so it’s a good start.”
She wants her students and others to really sit down and think about what Veterans Day is, and who is involved with it and why they are involved with it. She wants them to learn about freedoms, about safety, about respect.
“Think of those people who have laid down their lives on the line,” she said. “It’s the same thing my husband and his military active-duty friends are doing. You just want people to be respectful of the freedoms that they have and those people who have allowed them to have those freedoms.”
Rob Conley admitted in a Facebook message that the meaning of Veterans Day has changed for him this year.
“I have always respected the day, but being deployed for the first time puts in perspective all the sacrifices veterans have done for their country,” he said. “We have the freedoms we have in America because veterans put their country before themselves.”
He says the hardest part of his deployment is missing out on his two boys growing up.
“They are at that age where they are learning something new every day,” he said. “I’m reminded daily why I am here. It’s so as they get older, they can enjoy the same freedoms that I had growing up in this country.”