It’s been approximately a year since Maj. Johnny Casiano has been home, but the banner stretching across the front porch of 1618 Houston St. is a happy reminder that he is expected any time now.
Waiting for him is his wife, Thea, with whom he will celebrate their 10-year anniversary in February, their young daughter, Ada, their 9-year-old dog, Clara, and neighbors who have become close friends of the family.
There’s nothing new about Maj. Casiano’s absence, since his military job has kept him away from the family house for more than half of the eight years he and Thea have owned it. Johnny has served in the Army for 14 years and Tuesday will conclude his third deployment. Though his first two deployments were in Iraq, his last was in Afghanistan.
The Casianos met in Alaska, when Thea, at the time a senior at North Dakota State University, was visiting her sister for the summer. They married in 2002 after she graduated from college.
She said they briefly moved down to Georgia but were given orders to come to Fort Riley in 2003, purchasing the Houston Street house. That was also almost exactly the point when the Iraq War began, and Johnny’s unit was ordered to deploy to Iraq for a year. Johnny was able to come home for eight months before deploying a second time to Iraq for another year.
He returned to Thea and Houston Street a second time, applying for a master’s program in business administration at K-State, which he completed in 16 months. During that time Thea worked as a private piano tutor.
Theo said that time together made them appreciate Manhattan. But soon Johnny was off to Ft. Leavenworth to complete a command and staff school course for two years. They commuted back and forth to see each other during that period.
Once Johnny completed his course, he gladly took the opportunity to return to Manhattan, his arrival this time coinciding with that of the couple’s first child.
He was sent to Afghanistan at the end of 2010.
Military spouses can sympathize when Thea remarks “ that’s been my marriage for the last ten years.”
Ada, now one-and-a-half years old, was about 8 months old when Johnny left for Afghanistan.
“That has made this deployment the hardest for him,” she said, saying he has missed all the milestones that Ada has made in her first year, when children begin walking, talking and generally become more rambunctious.
For Thea, one of the hardest things about living without Johnny has been making all of the critical decisions regarding Ada on her own. Well, that, and not having Johnny around to share in the sleepless nights young parents know so well.
But, she said, Johnny talks to Ada over the phone while she makes a habit of showing Ada pictures of him all the time. “I think she gets it,” Thea said.
She said having good friends, including her neighbors, has helped compensate for such irritations as poor video connections in her internet conversations with Johnny. In their eight-year life on Houston Street, the Casianos became friends with neighbor Radley Ramsey, a Vietnam War veteran who grew up in Manhattan.
Ramsey said several military families live on the street, and they’ve made a habit of arranging cookouts and neighborhood get-togethers.
Ramsey was also instrumental in the creation of Johnny’s welcome home banner. He said a friend at Thomas Sign Company wanted to show his appreciation for the military, so together they designed the sign. The idea is that when Thea pulls up to the house with Johnny some time Tuesday, he can see it and know he was missed.
“They have some catching up to do,” he said.
Johnny Casiano is a squadron executive officer for 44th Cavalry, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, though his company has been attached to 310 Mountain, Spartan Brigade, out of Fort Drum in New York, while deployed in Afghanistan. He is expected home soon.