GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - This week's Project Homefront special report features a National Guard family. Kathie Ladner and her husband, John, are both long time Gulfport residents who married 21 years ago.
Since John was a graduate of the Air Force Academy, Kathie knew her life would be that of a military spouse. She calls it a wonderful life, but not without challenges.
"A lot of prayer and faith has been a big help for us during John's deployments," she told us recently.
Lieutenant Colonel Ladner has deployed seven times in their 21 years of marriage. Back when Operation Desert Storm began, John was in a group of B-52s that flew from a base in Louisiana to Iraq. That flight was part of the longest aviation mission in military history.
As for John's deployments, Kathie gets emotional when asked to talk about it because she always knew that every time he left, it could end with tragic consequences.
"Oh, if I had lost my best friend, someone that I greatly admire and respect, that would have been devastating," she said while fighting back tears.
Kathie has a unique perspective on the challenges of a military deployment. That's because for the last seven years, she has worked at the Family Assistance Center for the National Guard in the Kiln. In that time, Kathie said there have even been a few instances when she was there to help families deal with the toughest challenge any military family can face: the loss of a loved one.
"I have had wives that have been in the units where I worked that have had to go through losing a soldier. It is very personal, because it could have been my husband."
Kathie said her family counts their blessings every single day.
Back in 2002, the Ladners were selected as the Mississippi National Guard's Family of the Year. It was a well deserved honor, because for the Ladners, lives are all about God, duty, and service to country.
"We have always taught our children that their dad's duty, is God, country and family. And sometimes one of those has to be up front and sometimes his duty to country comes first," she said.
Kathie knows that even after two decades of military service, her husband's passion for the military and his country runs as strong as ever. Much the same can be said for Kathie and their kids.
"It is a wonderful life. It has been a very good life," Ladner said. "I can't imagine having done anything else."
Kathie said she doesn't know when her husband's next deployment will come, but she and her family will be there to support him every step of the way.
If you have a deployment story, we want to hear from you. Click here to learn more about our Project Homefront project. Write a short essay about your experience and each month one family will be chosen to receive a spa package and dinner for four.