Welcome Home: Officer returns to daughter, new home
DIXON – Ryan Bivins came home from his 10-month military deployment to a new house and a new daughter.
His two sons, Carson and Brady, 4 and 2, were eager to show him the house, starting with their bedroom, playroom and all their toys. Carson wore his red Power Rangers costume that he had gotten for his birthday.
But after the drive from Bloomington and meeting the welcoming party gathered in the parking lot of Dixon High School, Ryan and Jordan Bivins were ready to put the children to bed.
“I put my kids to bed, and that was pretty awesome, to tuck them in and tell them stories,” he said. “I held my daughter and kissed my wife.”
The Dixon police officer was part of an 18-man team, all from the Illinois National Guard, sent to train Polish soldiers who they were then deployed with 2 months later to the Ghazni Province in southeastern Afghanistan.
“We were up an elevation [of] about 7,600 feet, so we were in the mountains,” Bivins said. “The seasons were a lot like ours here. We had a pretty harsh winter, a lot of snow, and then during the summer months, it was hot.”
Despite being trained as an intelligence officer, Bivins was assigned as a brigade engineer, managing all the construction in the province. Adding to the intimidation factor, he said, the position was normally filled by a major. At the time, Bivins was a lieutenant.
“The first time out, you know, you always wonder what’s going to happen, but I guess, just like anything else, you don’t get comfortable, but you get accustomed to, ‘All right, we’re heading out,’” Bivins said.
But in nearly daily conversations with family via Skype, he didn’t really talk about his new job.
Sitting on the floor of their boys’ bedroom, as Carson and Brady raced their toy cars, Jordan said the conversations were a lot of moments like that, with Ryan just watching the boys play and show off for him.
Over the months, Brady went from just learning how to talk to speaking full sentences. Carson, he said, took over some of the responsibilities, “acting as the man of the house.”
Since he doesn’t go back to work until mid-June, he’s focusing on spending time with his sons and his daughter, Bailey, who he had previously seen only on Skype because she’s just 3 1/2 month old. They found out about the baby about week before Bivins’ deployment
The extended family has a trip to Florida planned to cap Bivins’ time off. Carson’s got it all planned out: “I’m going to help him build a sandcastle ... as tall as Daddy. Daddy can help me. It’s going to have his face on it.”
Each day while Ryan was gone, Jordan and the boys would take one seashell out of a jar full of shells and put it into an empty box.
“After we put the seashell in, what would we do?” Jordan asked Carson. “Pray,” he said, dragging out the “a.”
“And then what did we get to do when all the seashells were in the empty box?” she said. “Pick Daddy up,” Carson said enthusiastically.
The boys also had their own daddy buddy, a stuffed doll in cameo with Bivins’ picture on its head, and a pillow and blanket with family photos on them.
Even though it was sometimes exhausting and got harder during the last months as the boys asked more frequently where Daddy was, Jordan was surprised how well she handled the months he was gone.
“When we were in college, when he went into the military, we always knew that it was a possibility that he would deploy,” she said. “We would go to coming home ceremonies and different things, and I would be an emotional wreck.
“It was amazing, though, how God gave me exactly what I needed because I cried very rarely, not that it didn’t bother me or upset me that he was gone. It just, ‘He’s gone. This is what we have to do. We’ve got to get through it. Don’t sit around and think about it.’”
It helped that their parents, Sara and Randy Ortgiesen and Tim and Terri Bivins, helped out, baby-sitting the kids and taking them on Saturday nights, and her sister, Parker Ortgiesen, who works as a full-time nanny, moved in.
Illinois Army National Guard Cpt. Ryan Bivins
Unit: Bilateral Embedded Staff Team (BEST) A8
Places of service, dates and duties: Bivins joined the Illinois National Guard in 2006 while attending Olivet Nazarene University. He was deployed to Poland and then Afghanistan for 10 months. He returned in early May.
Family: Bivins and his wife, Jordan, 25, have three children, Carson, 4, Brady, 2, and Bailey, 3 1/2 months. His parents are Tim and Terri Bivins of Dixon. Her parents are Sara and Randy Ortgiesen, also of Dixon.