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Video of toddler hugging military dad's photo shows toll of deployment

Two-year-old Natalie just can't wait for her dad to get home!
/ Source: TODAY

Megan Healey has been missing her husband, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, while he has been deployed overseas for the past year. But it also hasn't been easy for her daughters, Noelle, 4, and Natalie, 2, either.

"Noelle will say, 'Daddy's away with the big Army'," the mom of two in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told TODAY Parents. "He’ll be home when he’s done helping people and protecting our country."

Healey said the girls start their day by eating breakfast with their dad as a way to cope with his absence.

Noelle, 4, and Natalie, 2, eat breakfast with their dad, who is deployed overseas.
Noelle, 4, and Natalie, 2, eat breakfast with their dad, who is deployed overseas.Courtesy Megan Healey

In a recent video, Natalie can be seen enjoying her breakfast with a framed photo of her dad nearby.

"Daddy's coming home soon," Healey shared in the video.

When Healey shared the news, the toddler immediately grabbed the framed photo for a heartwarming hug.

"They’re the true heroes of all of this," Healey said of her daughters. "When you’re pushing toward the year mark, everyone is more than ready for life to resume."

As a military spouse, Healey was prepared for deployments and periods of separation, but the COVID-19 pandemic thrust her into a unique situation of single parenting.

"If there was no pandemic, the whole village would have come and helped, but you don’t have that in a pandemic," she explained, adding that keeping her family and friends safe was a priority. "I lived with a lump in my throat and constant fear that myself or one of my children was going to become ill or seriously ill while he was gone."

Healey's situation is not an outlier. A March 31 proclamation from President Biden for April's Month of the Military Child estimated 2 million children support a parent service member.

"The strength of our Armed Forces comes not just from those who wear the uniform, but from their families, who also serve on behalf of our country," President Biden said.

Despite the trials of a pandemic deployment, Healey told TODAY that her girls, along with the help of her step-sons, have kept her going.

"You can still find moments of joy," she said. "There’s little bursts of positivity if you just look for them."

As the family approaches an emotional reunion after being separated for eleven months, little Noelle is ready.

"She has been saying 'When is daddy coming home? It’s just taking so long'," Healey shared. "She looks at the deployment app on my phone, which is a pie chart and the red is the part he has left. She asks if we can eat the pizza slice, because she wants it gone."