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Feb 28 / suzanne

Meet the Wives of Warriors

Tiffany Riley and her warrior, Lt. Col. Scott Riley, and Noah and Sydney

I tend to whine when my husband ditches me and our boys for a weekend tennis tournament, so I can hardly fathom what it’s like to have your spouse deployed for a year on a faraway military base. But that’s life for Tiffany Riley and some 60 other gals who belong to Wives of Warriors, a support group based out of Manna Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

“Yes, we all made the decision to marry someone in the military, but you can’t always prepare for that fine print — your husband may leave the country for 15 months during which your car will die, your children will rebel and you will go through the hormones of pregnancy alone,” says Tiffany, a mom of two whose husband, Lt. Colonel Scott Riley, serves as a military intelligence officer with United States Army Special Operations Command.

Wives of Warriors, known as WoW, organizes meal trains for its members in times of need, especially when babies are born. And — WoW! — do these gals crank out the babies. Their warriors may not be home much, but apparently these folks make the most of their together time: The group currently has a group baby shower planned for nine members!

WoW emphasizes that participating in a meal train is an opportunity to deliver so much more than dinner, Tiffany says. “We encourage our ladies to offer to hold the new baby so that Mom can sneak off for a long, hot shower and to offer some encouraging words, since many of our recipients are dealing with the stress of having a husband deployed overseas.”

Esther Deatrick and her warrior, Sgt. Brent Deatrick

One of the group’s most dedicated meal givers is Esther Deatrick, who was on the receiving end of a meal train after miscarrying an ectopic pregnancy that nearly killed her. “It ripped my uterus open, and they had to do emergency surgery,” Esther says.

Her first week home from the hospital, simply getting out of bed was a struggle. Her husband, Brent, an Air Force technical sergeant, was stationed locally, at Pope Air Force Base, but he had his hands full taking care of Claire, 4, and John, 2. Besides, Esther says, her husband’s cooking repertoire consists of four meals, including burritos and grilled cheese. “I don’t count frozen pizza,” Esther says.

The WoW women delivered meals to the Deatrick family three nights a week for a month. “I was completely blown away by their generosity,” says Esther. The family received many hearty pasta dishes and casseroles that provided welcome leftovers. Esther’s favorite delivery was an especially satisfying chicken tortilla soup. Our Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe is posted here.

Esther received a second meal train following the birth of her son John, little more than a year after her emergency surgery — and after she’d been told she wouldn’t be able to carry another child. “He’s my miracle baby,” says Esther.

Here are Esther’s meal-giving tips:

•Undercook your casseroles slightly by about 10 minutes so they’re just right after being warmed up. I received a few casseroles that got overcooked by the time we reheated them. One was an enchilada casserole that got really crunchy. To reheat, cover the casserole with foil and bake in a 375°F oven until heated through (about 25 minutes should do the trick).

•When you’re cooking for your family, double or triple the recipe and freeze the extra. It’s not that much more effort to cook up a little bit more. Right now I have two or three lasagnes in the deep freeze, so if we’re doing a meal train, I can just pull one out.

•Keep a stash of inexpensive containers. That way the recipient doesn’t have to worry about it getting back to you.

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