Together In A War Zone

You can imagine the uncertainty and fear that must go through the mind of a mother, a father, or a wife when their loved one is in the military and deployed to a war zone like Afghanistan. Christie Cawthon-Hayes, who lives in Chandlers Landing in Rockwall, has these fears doubled as BOTH her husband and daughter are now stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Chief Master Sergeant David Hayes joined the Air Force in June of 1982 and over the next twenty-eight years alternated between active duty status and being in the Texas National Guard. Assignments in Saudi Arabia, England, Iraq, and twice in Afghanistan insured he had plenty of opportunity to apply his specialty as a communications manager.

While David was deployed all over the world, his daughter, Ashley was growing up in Texas and graduating from McGregor High School in McGregor, Texas, in 2005. Already familiar with the military through her Dad, she made the decision to join the Air Force since she could serve on active duty while at the same time the Air Force would assist in paying for her college schooling. Five years later she is a Staff Sergeant…and that is pretty rapid advancement in any job.

But how did they both end up in Afghanistan at the same time and at the same place?

As Ashley explains, “One day I called my Dad and told him I volunteered for a deployment to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. I was excited because I have wanted to deploy for a while, but there weren’t many positions available for my skill-level in my career field.”

So what did her Dad do after receiving this phone call telling him his daughter was headed for a war zone? As you may guess, he started checking and soon found there was an opening for a person with his qualifications at the same place at the same time. Long story short, they both got assigned to the same place at the same time.

What’s it like for a father and a daughter to be together in a war zone?

As David says, “People often ask me, ‘Would you really want your daughter in a deployed environment? In a combat zone?’ My daughter can hold her own. We see each other more often now than we did in the last five years.” And Ashley says, “I like my Dad. If I weren’t here with him, I don’t think much would change except he would get way more emails and way more phone calls from me. We talk every day and we go to dinner with each other every day.”

I asked them both what they would tell a person thinking about joining the service. David said, “I would tell them I went into the Air Force thinking I would just get the education benefits and jump out. Twenty-eight years later I’m still here and loving every minute of it. If you don’t like to work hard or contribute to something greater than yourself, this probably isn’t for you. You have to sacrifice a lot but the reward of knowing that you can serve a greater good, be part of history, and know that you have contributed something to the Country that gives so much to you is a feeling that’s beyond words.” Ashley added, “There are a lot of great benefits to serving and you can always turn it into a great career. And, where else can you work with your Dad 8,000 miles away from home?”

Tell them both hello when you see them come November and tell them both Thank You for serving this great Nation of ours.

Jerry Hogan is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel who volunteers to write these articles. He can be reached at or 214-394-4033. His web site is