By Danielle DeSimone
Sending your child off on deployment can be an emotional and difficult ride. Once your service member has gone past the security gates at the airport, they’re out of sight, out of reach, and from that moment on, a parent can only do so much to offer comfort or support from thousands of miles away. Luckily, the USO is there to help along the way.
Beth Thomason was anxious when dropping off her son, Pvt. 1st Class Noah Thomason, at Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport in Maryland. She made her way through the airport with Noah, her husband and Noah’s two other siblings, all of them nervous about this goodbye. After all, Noah had only been in the Army for one year, and this was his first deployment.
Then, the family met the USO BWI Airport volunteers at the check-in, who immediately welcomed the Thomasons. They provided Noah with snacks and supplies for his long flight, and a small bit of comfort for Beth and the rest of the family.
“They were such friendly faces to everyone and such a relief, as I was trying very hard not to cry in front of all the soldiers in line over sending my 20-year-old off to ‘the sandbox,’” she said. “Thank God for them. They were the highlight of a stressful and dreadful day.”
The distance and daily duties of deployment can have a resounding effect on both service members and their families. In the Blue Star Families 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 52% of service members listed “time spent away from family” as their top issue, and family members back home can struggle with the separation as well. But as a parent, knowing that your service member is still being taken care of, even in the middle of the desert, can make all the difference.
This past June, in honor of Batman’s 80th anniversary, DC Comics joined forces with the USO to bring an immersive Batman experience to the nearly 12,000 U.S. military members stationed in Kuwait – including Noah.
As part of this USO entertainment tour, legendary Batman artist Jim Lee and award-winning Batman writer Tom King visited military bases alongside actresses Nafessa Williams (Anissa Pierce/Thunder from “Black Lighting”), Candice Patton (Iris West Allen from “The Flash”) and Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost from “The Flash”). Also along for the ride? The Batmobile, of course.
A longtime Batman comics fan, Noah was able to meet some of his heroes, whose comic books he still has in his room back home in Chesapeake, Virginia. According to Beth, Noah was “over the moon” to see the Batmobile from The Dark Knight movies in-person, and he even got to participate in a drawing class with comic book illustrator, Jim Lee. He immediately called home to tell his mom all about it.
“He spent an hour telling me every detail and showing me pictures of the people he met,” Beth said. “I can’t think of a better introduction to a place he had worried about going to since the moment he received hard orders.”
For Noah, meeting Batman celebrities and getting to participate in a USO tour offered a break from the realities of deployment and was something exciting to look forward to. For Beth, the USO tour did what she, on the other side of the world, could not: it provided some comfort and entertainment, it was a reminder of home and it was a chance for Noah to connect with the things he loved.
Most importantly, it eased the pain of separation during deployment for the Thomason family, knowing that their son was being taken care of even when they were not around.