Realtor Jenni Roberts became a first time homeowner when her husband was deployed to Afghanistan.
In September, Roberts helped another young woman, whose husband is overseas, purchase her family’s first home.
"It’s just a neat story about life coming full circle," Roberts said. "I went through this similar thing so many years ago. Now we did this together years later."
Ezekiel Dakota Mauldin, known to family and friends as Dak, left for Afghanistan in February, one month shy of his one-year wedding anniversary to wife Shelbie.
Both women’s husbands were deployed to Bagram Air Base. A U.S. military base jointly operated by the US Army and U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul.
Shelbie’s husband serves as an active duty member of the U.S. Army. Roberts’ husband was a a member of the Louisiana Army National Guard at the time of his deployment.
Dak’s job is classified, so often times not even his wife can know where he is or what he’s doing. Shelbie said the worrying and "not knowing" has been the hardest part of his deployment.
Shortly after the news of getting deployed, the Mauldin’s found out Shelbie was pregnant with their son Braxtyn.
Experiencing all of Braxtyn’s firsts without her husband as also been hard, she said.
In November, Braxtyn was born and the couple moved from their rental house to Shelbie’s parents’ house to ease the financial burden when Dak would leave for Afghanistan.
When Dak left for Afghanistan in February, Shelbie made another transition and moved in with Dak’s grandparents.
"After that I was like, okay now I’m ready to look for a house," Shelbie said. "I kept looking for rental houses, but nothing worked for our husky, so I made the decision to buy a house."
Shelbie knew Roberts from when she started baby-sitting Roberts’ children after she and her husband moved to Conway in 2010.
She soon learned Roberts’ story. A year after Sept. 11, Roberts’ husband was deployed. When he was in Afghanistan, Roberts purchased the couples’ first home in Lousiana.
"It was nerve wrecking, and you’re scared that he may not love it, but of course when my husband got home he did love it, just as [Shelbie’s] will," Roberts said.
Shelbie didn’t send Dak pictures of the house until after she signed the paperwork because she knew it was the one for her family the moment she stepped through the door.
Roberts showed Shelbie a total of 14 properties, but none of them felt like home, so they went back to Roberts’ office to do one more search when they found 2165 Nature Trail.
It was occupied by renters at the time, but Shelbie was able to take a tour.
"I walked in. It was the house," she said. "I was like this is it. I don’t have to go any further."
Dak is expected to arrive back in Arkansas in the coming weeks. Where he will see his new home for the first time.
"He’s seen it on Skype and our Vivint cameras," Shelbie said, "but that’s about it, so I hope he likes it when he gets home."
Most wives would be thrilled about their husbands returning to take over mowing the lawn and other routine maintenance around the house, but Shelbie is so proud of being a first time homeowner, she’d rather do it herself.
"I didn’t have a house for nine months, so I’m actually pretty excited about taking care of the house," she said. "Plus he doesn’t really clean very well, so I’ll leave him to cleaning his man cave."
Shelbie has devoted the home’s spare bedroom as a man cave. She’s filled the room with Dak’s favorite things, and plans to surprise him with it when he gets home.
"There’s an Army wall with all his achievements in the military, a Johnny Cash wall, a Razorback wall — we’re trying to get it all together," she said.
Dak has also been experiencing a lot of his son’s firsts on Skype, Shelbie said.
"He started walking about three weeks ago and I’m like just sit down, you’re daddy is so close to being home," she said.
Braxtyn was three months old when Dak deployed. He will be a little more than a year old when his father returns.
"She has held it together so well while her husband has been gone," Roberts said. "I didn’t have kids at the time, and it was hard enough because it was shortly after Sept. 11 when my husband got deployed. Everything was so uncertain. Everything was so, so scary, but I didn’t have kids, and the fact that she does. ... she’s amazing."
"There are times when I want to pull my hair out," Shelbie said, "but we’ve made it."
Shelbie is looking forward to spending the holidays as a family in their new home. Halloween is the last holiday Braxtyn and Shelbie will spend without Dak.
One thing Dak is looking forward to the most, Shelbie said, is being reunited with his Siberian Husky Kilo.
Kilo has been in Greenbrier at Dak’s mom’s house since he deployed. The dog has visited the new house once, but it was too much for Shelbie to move, work and take care of Kilo and Braxtyn.
"It’s going to be an emotional wreck when [Kilo] sees Dak," she said. Dak wants Shelbie to bring Kilo to the airport, but Shelbie isn’t so sure.
Shelbie does know she wants to document Dak’s homecoming. She’s hired two photographers for Dak’s arrival at the airport and plans to have her video camera ready when Braxtyn walks to his daddy for the first time.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)