Military family life: Meet the Hardings
14 Wing Greenwood has been home to the Harding family for the past five years. Captain Richard Harding is an Air Combat Systems Officer with 405 Long Range Patrol Squadron flying the CP-140 Aurora. His wife, Lieutenant-Navy Chantal Harding, is a Reserve cadet instructor with the 517 F/Lt Graham Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron.
They have a busy household with two young daughters and Richard is away about a third of the year on exercises or deployments.
“There was a war one time and Daddy went to try to help people in his airplane,” says Alexandra, age 6, describing one of her father’s deployments.
“When Daddy is away, I feel sad and I miss him a lot. It makes me sad at bedtime. But we have one of his shirts and we snuggle with it at bedtime,” says Cassandra, age 8.
Their mother, Chantal, adds, “We also put pictures on a map of where we are and where Richard is, along with the different time zones, so the girls have a better idea of where their Dad is.”
Richard wishes he could be home more for things like school concerts, graduations, birthdays and anniversaries, as well as special holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Easter. However, his daughters always enjoy the special treats brought home from exotic locales as well as Daddy’s little surprises.
“One time at Christmas when Daddy was away, there was a big box and Daddy jumped out of it,” says Alexandra. “We were really surprised [to see Daddy], and then we played in the box.” The girls had no idea Richard was coming home that Christmas until he jumped out of the box that Chantal had rigged up from two moving boxes. Memories in the making, to be sure.
Like many military families, the Hardings do whatever they can to make life as secure and stable as possible for their daughters. This includes frequent visits from extended family members in Ontario, building strong connections with neighbours who’ve become more like family, and keeping the lines of communication open.
The girls are happy to help out when their father is away. “They are Mom’s big helpers, for sure,” says Richard. “When Daddy is away, I listen, I put away laundry, we help with the dishes and when we wake up, we give Missy [the family cat] her kitty treats,” says Cassandra.
Although the Hardings are settled in Greenwood, they always live with the reality faced by all military families that a posting may be on the horizon. Luckily, the shorter term will provide some geographic stability for them as Richard is slated to be posted to another Greenwood unit this summer. However, a few years after that, he knows the prospect of moving away from Greenwood will be a decision point for the family. By that time, their daughters will be older and even more settled in school with their friends, which causes Richard to think of going alone so the girls could stay in their familiar surroundings.
“I’d be sad if we had to leave and I wouldn’t want to leave,” says Cassandra of a possible move.
Whatever the future holds for the Harding family, Alexandra and Cassandra are growing and developing with resiliency and a sense of curiosity and adventure. “As they’ve got used to being military kids, they’ve definitely adapted,” says Chantal. “The first couple of years were challenging, but whenever Richard does go away, he’s able to call home and FaceTime with the girls, which makes it a little bit easier — and the homecomings are always special.”