Couple celebrates anniversary miles apart

Ann Kopecky

Ann Kopecky

Jaret Sievers stares down at his shiny gold wedding band and turns the jewelry slowly around his finger as he describes the separation between him and his wife.

“It’s hard to look at things for the long-term,” Sievers quietly answers. “There’s so much uncertainty so you just try to live day to day.”

His two-bedroom apartment still smells of her perfume and in every decoration, her presence remains. Photographs of their wedding, scented candles, and patriotic red, white and blue colors envelop the room.

It’s as if his wife never left.

Sievers’s wife, Janelle, is stationed with the 1742nd Transporation Company at Camp Anaconda near Balad, Iraq. For the last six months of their marriage, the couple has been separated by the war with Iraq.

On Oct. 12, Sievers and Janelle will celebrate their one year anniversary. But for their first year anniversary Sievers will not buy flowers, candy and jewelry. He won’t take his wife out to eat and to see a movie. This year Sievers will celebrate the event in his heart.

“For me I’ll try to do what I do every day and keep her in my thoughts,” Sievers said. “I’ll think about all the good memories.”

Good memories have kept Sievers going since his wife was activated Mar. 11. He was prepared for the news as the company had been put on alert in early February.

“There was always that chance that they could get activated,” Sievers said.

Sievers was allowed to see his wife daily after her activation as the unit was moved to Sioux Falls for training. With each visit the couple prepared themselves for the future separation.

“We talked about all the fears and concerns that I had and she had too,” Sievers said. “It was hard. We just tried to talk about all the things that were going to happen when they were gone. Then we just tried to spend as much time together as possible before she had to leave.”

When Sievers and Janelle were dating, and even while they were engaged, the couple had spent much of their time apart. Sievers took the fall semester off in the fall of 2000 and spent six months working in Iowa. After he graduated from SDSU, he lived at Wind Cave National Park for a year while he did research for graduate school. From January 2002 to January 2003, Janelle attended Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell where she had class for four days a week and then returned on weekends to the couple’s apartment in Brookings.

But the past separation was nothing compared to the separation the couple would experience.

“It’s definitely more difficult than anything we’ve had to go through,” Sievers said.

On Apr. 9, just three days before the couple’s six month anniversary, Janelle and the company moved to Fort Carson, Colo., for more training.

It took Sievers a while to realize that his wife was really gone. That night after the deployment ceremony, reality struck Sievers as he was going to bed.

“It hit me that she had really left,” Sievers said.

Sievers made the trip twice to Fort Carson to see his wife before the unit was sent overseas in early June. Since then the couple has only communicated through e-mail, letters and a few times over the telephone.

“We e-mail about every day,” Sievers said.

While Sievers attends his graduate classes in wildlife and fisheries at SDSU each day, Janelle fights off the heat and sandstorms to haul pre-packaged meals, bottled water, medical supplies, mechanical parts, tires and anything else that can fit onto her 40-foot trailer. Janelle and her company have logged more than 600,000 miles driving truck in Kuwait and Iraq since they arrived.

“I just try and make the best of every day,” Janelle says in an e-mail. “I have a good sense of humor. I also have learned that it does me no good to get all upset about stuff because I can’t change it and it’s not like this is a job where I can put in my two weeks notice.”

Sievers said the call to duty is more than a job to his wife but a promise she planned to keep.

“She knew she had made a committment, a promise to defend our country and she wanted to see that through,” Sievers said.

As Sievers talks about Janelle’s job overseas, his eyes gaze over to a collage he made of his wife’s military career. American flags proudly hang over the corners of the display. Pictures of Janelle in her uniform, hometown newspaper clippings of her military leave and her unit’s deployment ceremony program are included in the framed artwork.

“It’s given me a new perspective on things,” Sievers said. “I realize how important it is that we have people that are willing to defend our country, like Janelle is.”

On their anniversary, Janelle hopes to call her husband but if she can’t make a connection to the United States, she plans to e-mail him.

She said she enjoys her military experience even though it has been a difficult time for her and Sievers.

“I actually do enjoy the military, it’s just hard to be away from Jaret and my family and friends,” Janelle said. “The nice thing is that there are 130 other people here in my company who are going through the same thing I am so we talk about things all the time.”

And while she is away, Janelle wants her husband to continue living his life each day.

“I hope that he goes out and has fun, he should go to lots of football games, do lots of hunting, spend time with our friends and family,” Janelle said. “I want him to have fun, and just because I am gone does not mean he has to stay home and just wait for me.”

Sievers said that he has taken Janelle’s advice. He often visits his family and hers. Last week he visited her aunt.

Sievers has tried to keep the apartment just as Janelle would like it. He even put up Halloween decorations because he knows that she always like decorating for holidays.

“I wanted to keep her spirit here,” Sievers said as he looks around the room.

Besides keeping Janelle’s spirit around in the apartment, he also carries it with him each day.

As Sievers looks down at his sweatshirt, he points to a pin with a picture of his wife in her military apparel.

“It keeps her in my thoughts,” Sievers said with a slight tremble in his voice. “I like to wear it close to my heart, I guess. I think it helps remind people that we still have troops over there fighting for our country.”

Sievers and his wife don’t know when they will be reunited. But both plan to keep the other in their hearts.

“Tell Jaret I love him very much,” Janelle responds at the end of her e-mail.

Before Sievers shuts the door to his apartment, he says, “I can’t wait for her to come home.”

#1.886742:1713219646.jpg:JaretSeivers.jpg:Jaret Sievers proudly displays a wedding photograph of him and his wife, Janelle. Sievers and Janelle, a member of the 1742nd Transporation Unit, have been separated for almost six months due to the war with Iraq.: