Tim Bedell, 5, watches his mother, Jennifer Bedell, read “My Mommy Wears Combat Boots” to his class Wednesday, when Christian Heritage School recognized Veterans Day. Jennifer Bedell returned to Steamboat Springs in September after a yearlong deployment to Kuwait.
Steamboat family is made whole again on Veterans Day
■ The U.S. Forest Service is waiving fees at most of its day-use recreation sites during Veterans Day weekend.
■ All military veterans can eat free at Johnny B. Good’s Diner in Steamboat Springs Friday as part of a tradition that owners Mike and Kathy Diemer have maintained for many years.
Steamboat Springs For the past year, Tim Bedell’s mom wore combat boots, and he missed her a lot.
“She protects you,” the 5-year-old said to his preschool classmates Wednesday as Christian Heritage School recognized Veterans Day, which is Friday.
The school day included a visit from Tim’s mother, Jennifer Bedell, who participated in the school’s ceremony, had lunch with a group of girls and stopped by her kids’ classrooms to read books. It was a welcome change of scenery for the Army reservist.
In September, Bedell returned from a lengthy deployment to the Middle East, where she had been stationed for more than a year — a considerable amount of time to be away from her husband and two children.
“It was this long,” Tim said, holding his hands about a foot apart to describe the length of time his mom had been away.
Veterans Day is about recognizing all who have worn a military uniform and the sacrifices they made to serve their country. And while Tim still is too young to understand the sacrifice his family has made for its country, he has learned to cherish every moment with his mom.
“I can’t believe my mom is going to come and read us something,” Tim said before Wednesday’s school activities. “A special day for me.”
Decision to serve
Bedell was certain she would be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan after joining the the reserves at age 34 in 2004.
“I wanted to serve during a time of war,” she said.
A year earlier, she married Chad Bedell, a cowboy who now works as ranch manager at Marabou Ranch. Children were likely in their future, and Jennifer Bedell said she felt the reserve program would allow her to serve and have a family. Some were skeptical.
“I think there were a lot of people that questioned how she could leave her kids for a year,” said Sharon Bedell, Jennifer’s mother-in-law. “It comes under the heading of sacrifice.”
Jennifer Bedell had Tim after basic training. Jessica followed and now is 3.
It was not until after the kids were born that Bedell learned she would be deployed in July 2010 to Kuwait, where the staff sergeant would work as a paralegal in the JAG Corps.
“For me, it was the uncertainty of how it was going to be at home with me away,” she said. “I was more worried about my kids and my husband at home than I was about IEDs or anything.”
The kids watched from behind a fence as their mom left for her deployment.
“They were trying to climb out to get me to stay,” Bedell recalled.
Making it work
Bedell said preparing for deployment pulled her family together and forced them to reach out to friends and family for support. She considers them the heroes.
They hired an au pair named Brenda Izaguirre Piña to help with the estimated 92 hours of child care they needed each week.
“She has been an angel,” Bedell said.
Family was nearby to help, too.
“It gave me a real bond with my grandchildren,” Sharon Bedell said. “That’s something I’m thankful for.”
Chad Bedell was given flexibility at work so he could help keep the kids in a routine. Teacher Denise Turton recalled Chad, the 1996 world championship steer wrestler, helping to carry lunch boxes and bags as he dropped off the kids at school.
“He did such a good job,” Turton said.
His wife agrees.
“He was dad and mom when I was gone,” she said.
Chad Bedell, 45, said he helped the kids keep track of the days their mom was gone on a calendar, but they did not really grasp when she would be coming home until a couple days before she arrived.
“They didn’t sleep much for a couple days,” he said. “All they wanted to do is be around mom all the time.”
Jennifer Bedell said the deployment proved to her and her family that they could handle the strain of an extended separation. It also allowed her to excel in an environment she was completely unfamiliar with.
While overseas, she re-enlisted for six more years.
“I was in the company of other soldiers that inspired me to re-enlist,” Bedell said.
— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com