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Bivins family thankful for each other

Daughter praises mother’s efforts during father’s multiple deployments

Staff photo / Allie Vugrincic From left, David, 10, mother Vicky, Hannah, 11, and father Ian Bivins look through family photos during an interview Friday afternoon at the Tribune Chronicle. Hannah submitted a “Giving Thanks” letter saying she is thankful for her mother, who took care of her and her brother while her father was at sea in the Navy.

CHAMPION — Poring over a pile of photographs, Hannah Bivins, 11, said she recalled one particular picture in which she was wearing her father’s Navy uniform shirt and hat. Arms outstretched, the sleeves of his uniform flopped past the ends of her arms.

Hannah’s father, Ian Bivins, has been deployed numerous times during his 17-year career in the Navy. Over the course of one two-and-a half-year period, Ian said he saw his family for just three weeks.

Missing birthdays and holidays, Ian’s wife, Vicky Bivins, said she tried to document the major moments in the lives of Hannah and her younger brother, David, 10, so Ian would not feel like life was going on without him.

“I took a lot of photos,” Vicky said.

Hannah, a sixth-grader at Champion Middle School, submitted what she was thankful for this year as part of the Tribune Chronicle’s “Giving Thanks,” which ran over several days around Thanksgiving. Hannah was one of hundreds of local students and Tribune Chronicle general readers who gave thanks for the special people and things in their lives.

“I’m thankful for my mom because when my dad is at sea — he was in Bahrain for about a year — for that year she took care of us. She would always make sure that we were feeling OK,” said Hannah. “She was like a single parent.”

While her father was away, Hannah also chipped in, earning the nickname “Little Mama.”

Vicky, originally from South Carolina, said she was able to stay home and not work while her husband was deployed — and that is something for which she gives thanks.

“I was thankful to stay home with my family while he was at sea, and that they always knew I was there,” Vicky said. “I could always go and get them, or get them what they needed.”

Ian said “it was rough” being away from his family so often, but in recent years technology has helped them stay in touch.

On Ian’s first deployment, he and Vicky scarcely talked. More recently, Vicky has been able to video chat with Ian, even streaming live events like a parade in which Hannah walked.

“Anytime we pull in now, I try to get a SIM card for my phone,” Ian said.

He said on his fourth deployment, he started drinking coffee because coffee shops had internet access.

“You had to buy something to get the wifi for so many hours,” Ian said.

In addition to often being deployed, Ian’s career kept the family moving from state to state, with Hannah and David going to five schools over the course of seven moves. Vicky said the kids had no problem adapting and making new friends wherever they went.

On several occasions, Ian was able to come home and surprise Hannah and David. In January 2017, he met his unsuspecting kids in the arena of a monster truck show in Hampton, Virginia.

“I went taking off running, and I almost knocked him down,” Hannah said. “It’s kind of like when you get a birthday present that you really, really like, but you didn’t know you were going to get it and it just shows up a day early.”

Now a Navy recruiter in Youngstown and Warren, Ian said he has about three years left in the service. He spent most of his career working as a damage controlman, handling fire suppression systems and managing about 10 firetrucks worth of equipment on Navy ships.

Though he joined the Navy to travel and “leave small-town life and see what the world had to offer,” Ian said he looks forward to settling in one place.

“I’m ready to just be home and back with my family,” he said.

He said he is thankful that he is able to give his family a good life.

“I’m just thankful for what I have and that I’m able to provide a better life for them.”

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