Normally, one would expect Dan Symonds to be totally cool with his upcoming overseas deployment with the U.S. Army Reserve, what with it being his sixth and all. But this time, he's leaving behind his wife and young daughters.
"I have a little bit of anxiety going that I am leaving everyone, and it's going to be a little hard for me in the beginning," the 47-year-old said. "Before I was single and never had to worry about anything but my dog, which my family took care of. Now I have my dog, the wife, the two kids and the business."
His wife Joy agreed. "I'm very anxious because Dan does a lot with the girls," Emily, 2, and Vivienne, 5 months.
Thankfully, lots of people -- friends, church members and, most surprisingly, strangers -- have offered to help, said the Symondses, who own Symonds-Madison Funeral Home in Elgin.
"It's been nice in the last couple of weeks to hear from a lot of friends we have in Elgin offer to help me. People I don't even know," Joy said. For example, a woman offered to help with baby-sitting after her husband heard about the Symonds from a VFW Post 1309 member, she said.
Dan is a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army Reserve and serves with the 220th Public Affairs Detachment, which will be stationed for nine months in Kuwait. He will be leaving Elgin "sometime in the spring" and expects to be gone for about a year altogether, he said.
It warms his heart that so many people have offered to help in his absence, he said.
"I had many fellow veterans come up to me, shake my hand and tell me, 'We are here for you. Whatever your wife needs.'"
He joined the U.S. Army Reserve six months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He plans to retire in four years, when he reaches the 20-year mark, he said.
Joy said she is getting advice about how to get through the deployment from military spouses on Facebook. One great suggestion was creating a "deployment wall" with a picture of Dan and a map of his location, an envelope for mail and a count of how long he's been gone, she said.
She'll also plan special monthly family destinations, like a children's museum, so the girls have something to look forward to, she said.
Dan moved to Elgin in December 2013 when he took over the funeral home. His wife moved from Michigan after they got married, a little over a year later. Now, four years later, Dan said, "I feel I am part of Elgin."