ANKENY, Iowa — It's Veterans Day and people all across the country are taking time to thank those who have served. One Ankeny family is thanking their father and husband for the sacrifices he made, including missing two of his daughters’ births.
Over the past 10 years Sergeant First Class (SFC) Tony Niswander was deployed three times, each time leaving his family for over a year. During his two most recent deployments in Afghanistan, SFC Niswander missed some major moments with his family. He missed not one, but two of his daughters’ births.
SFC Niswander did not get to meet his daughters until they were three months and six months old. His wife, Susan, says praying for Facetime to work or just juggling being a mom of three on her own were some of the toughest moments, but counting down the days until her family could be whole again gave her hope.
“The kids get so excited about it. Just having fun and making those signs and knowing that it's coming,” Susan said. “Waiting for that airplane, when they walk off, that's like the longest. It might only be 30 minutes, but it feels like hours that we're standing there waiting for them to get off that plane.”
SFC Niswander said there really is that whole range of emotions from happy the baby and mother is healthy, then angry he's not there to witness some of life's firsts. He said the hardest part was actually the reintegration, realizing his youngest daughters Olivia and Lillian didn't have the bond with him like they did with their mom right away.
In the end he said he did what he had to do to keep Americans safe, and that makes his whole family pretty proud.
“He's my hero because he protects my family, but he also protects the whole country,” SFC Niswander’s oldest daughter Madison said.
“You understand that it is a small sacrifice that you make for the big picture of the nation being safe. It is worth it in the long run. I obviously went through all those emotions twice, but looking back at it I’m glad I did it and I definitely would do it again in a heartbeat if asked upon,” SFC Niswander said. “To know that what I'm doing now has an effect on their lives and their livelihoods in the future, I mean, that's anything that a parent could ask for.”