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Husband home from military, gives woman needed break

Linda Cockrell sits with her 5-year-old daughter, Kelsey, on the front porch of their home Friday. They were awaiting the return of Jeff Cockrell, husband and father, who has been deployed with the 114th Military Police since February.(C. Todd Sherman The Vicksburg Post)

[5/11/03]A Vicksburg woman who’s been playing the role of mother and father is getting a break today for Mother’s Day, as her husband is home from his station in Fort Hood, Texas, for the weekend.

Linda Cockrell’s husband, Sgt. Jeff Cockrell, is home to celebrate both Mother’s Day and her 40th birthday Monday after being deployed since February with the 114th Military Police.

Life at home hasn’t been easy since he left.

Keeping up with the couple’s 5-year-old daughter, Kelsey, has presented a challenge for Cockrell, who’s also seven months pregnant.

“She’s so energetic, it’s hard for me to keep her entertained,” she said.

Because of complications with the pregnancy, Cockrell is under doctor’s orders to stay home from her job at River Region Medical Center, where she is a registered nurse in the intensive care unit.

The stress of juggling a fulltime job and being a single parent while her husband is away led to the complications, Cockrell said.

“We would get up, I’d get her ready for school and get myself ready for work,” she said.

Then it was off to day care for Kelsey and to work for Cockrell.

“Thankfully, the hospital was good enough to work my schedule around the day care’s hours,” she said.

But Cockrell’s work wasn’t through when she returned home.

“In the evening I’d try to cook supper, do some housework, pay the bills and try to get her in bed by 8:30,” she said. “And then I’d fall asleep like that.”

Handling the household duties alone has been tough, despite helping hands from other family and friends.

“Things that are hard are things like taking out the garbage and hiring someone to do yard work,” she said.

Those are chores her husband usually does.

“He’s a good housekeeper,” she said.

But it’s not just having a handyman that Kelsey and and her mother miss.

“I miss him a lot,” Kelsey said of her father, whom she calls her best friend.

“He’s my best friend because I love him.”

Though the war with Iraq is over, troops are still deployed overseas and elsewhere. Cockrell said many families face similar situations and all of them need as much support as possible from the community.

“So many people from all over the country are gone, and there are a lot of single parents,” she said. “This isn’t anything unique.”

Cockrell said she’s gotten by with help from the community.

“Without that, I’d be a whole lot worse,” she said.

Jeff Cockrell left in late February, about a week after signing up for the National Guard.

“It was a cold, rainy day,” she said. “It was horrible.”

A firefighter for the Vicksburg Fire Department, Cockrell made the decision to sign up when a war with Iraq loomed.

“As things heated up, he felt like he wanted to join the unit here,” Cockrell said.

Jeff Cockrell had been deployed for several months with a National Guard unit in Rolling Fork during Desert Storm, but since resigned.

“He feels like this is his patriotic duty, and I support him in anything he wants to do,” she said.

Meanwhile, Cockrell said she and her daughter try to hold down the fort at home.

“We are just trying to take it easy,” she said.

And today, the whole family will do just that.