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Life goes on for Ellsworth wife as husband is deployed in Afghanistan

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"Thank you for your service."

With those five words, Ami Scarbrough's life changed forever.

Scarbrough typed those words on Bill Odell's Myspace page as Odell was nearing the end of a deployment in Iraq.

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When Odell came back, a friendship was formed, but Odell wanted more.

"He asked me out several times until I said yes," which Scarbrough estimated was four months later.

That was 2006.

Last year, Scarbrough added Odell to her name. Earlier this year, they were blessed with their first child, a daughter named Chloe.

Christmas has been tough this year for Ami and her young daughter.

Since the fall, Bill, 29, has been in Afghanistan as a member of the 372nd Army Engineering Brigade out of Fort Snelling in the Twin Cities.

She said the hardest part about not having him around isn't one thing in particular, it's just the fact he isn't around at all.

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder," she said.

Ami knew what she was getting herself into when she said "I do" last year. When she married Bill, she married the military life as well.

"We even had a military wedding," she said, smiling.

@Sub heads:Routine

@Normal1: The couple lived in Shoreview, Minn., for awhile, but Bill, who grew up in Cumberland, Wis., wanted to escape the Twin Cities life. (Ami grew up in Missouri.)

"Bill wanted a smaller area to raise our daughter, but yet have the convenience of the cities," she said.

The couple settled on Ellsworth due to the Pierce County Fair, Cheese Curd Festival and their knowledge of the area, since a relative lives in Ellsworth.

Ami's day starts at 5 a.m. She eats, feeds their pets and gets Chloe ready for day care. She commutes to the Twin Cities, where she runs an allied health program at a college.

She's usually home by 5:30 p.m., which is right around the time Chloe naps. That allows her to get some housework done. When Chloe awakes, it's time for supper, playtime and then a bath.

When Chloe goes down for the night, Ami has time to eat and gets her lesson plans done for the following day.

"The day is hectic and it's busy, but it's a routine," Ami said. "If it wasn't a routine, it wouldn't work."

The weekends consist of cleaning and catch-up, church at Crossroads Community Church in Ellsworth and assorted military functions.

Ami said she knew she and her husband had some work to do since they were newcomers to the Ellsworth community.

"You have to make an effort to become friendly," she said.

The results have paid off.

"(The fellow church members) have been very supportive and helpful," she said, adding one day while she was sick and Bill was preparing for deployment, the minister's wife at Crossroads took Chloe for a day.

While she appreciated the effort, she doesn't want to become a burden.

"I know what I need," Ami said. "People have offered to watch Chloe, but it's hard to ask for people's help because I've grown to be self sufficient."

@Sub heads:Stereotypes

@Normal1: Ami said the assumption about Army wives isn't correct.

"The stereotype is that the military wife doesn't work, have no career, spend their husband's money and cheat on them," she said. "I don't think that's true."

The military life was quite familiar for Ami, as her dad was in the Navy and she spent time in the National Guard. That's why asking Bill to leave the Army was never brought up.

"It wouldn't be fair to him," she said. "He's been in the military since 17. It's what he loves and you're supposed to love your husband no matter what."

Ami said she and Bill try to talk as much as possible, whether via the phone or Internet. The conversations are short and to the point for a reason.

"If there's an animal issue, there's nothing he can do about it, so what's the point in bringing it up," she said.

As a result, she believes this life is the hardest for Bill.

"It's different for being a single soldier versus a married soldier," she said. "Things continue here."

And not a day goes by without Ami worrying about Bill's life. In Afghanistan, the 372nd's main mission is to train Afghan soldiers in engineering skills to improve the capabilities of their nation.

"You have to be realistic and know it could happen," she said. "He could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can't dwell on it because it would drive you crazy."

Ami said she looks forward to the most is February, when Bill comes home for a break. That is also when Chloe will celebrate her first birthday.

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Jason Schulte
Jason Schulte has been with the Herald since 2006. He covers County government and anything else that happens in Pierce County on a daily basis.
(715) 273-4334
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