Navy Lt. Darcia Treadwell of Matthews cried when she left her husband and three children one year ago for deployment in Djibouti, Africa.
The elementary school teacher who has a second career in the Navy Reserves also cried when she said goodbye to military co-workers she’d bonded with at Camp Lemonnier on the Horn of Africa.
On Saturday, her emotions swelled again when she landed at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and reunited with her family.
“It feels amazing,” said Treadwell, 40, who was born in Jamaica and became a U.S. citizen in 1996. “I’ve missed being a mother and wife, I’ve missed it a lot.”
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Since 2011, Treadwell has also been a full-time student, working online on her educational doctorate degree with Liberty University.
With all the demands on her time, each day is a balancing act. But Treadwell is prepared.
“I always have a notepad and every single day make a to-do list,” she said. “I’m highly organized. I meditate a lot and take a lot of walks. And I don’t watch TV.”
Treadwell’s husband, Arthur, who is a stay-at-home dad, was “relieved to have my girlfriend back.”
Since the couple married in 2009, Arthur Treadwell, 31, said when people asked him to describe his wife he mentions how driven she is.
“She constantly amazes me,” he said. “She puts family first. She’s proud of her Jamaican heritage and wants to honor her family by being successful.”
Darcia Treadwell was born in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and later lived in Kingston, where her father was a police officer and later the warden of a prison.
The political turmoil on the island in the 1970s and ’80s was disturbing, but life went on. Shoot-outs in the streets were common, particularly around election time, Darcia Treadwell said.
As the violence intensified her family decided it was time to leave. Treadwell was 11 when she came to the U.S., where she graduated from Waltham High School outside Boston in 1991.
For a while she attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Lasell College in Newton, Mass., but felt something was missing in her life.
Taking a break from school, she went to work for National Car Rentals at Boston Logan International Airport and later transferred to Melbourne, Fla. Military personnel from nearby Patrick Air Force Base came in and out of Melbourne International Airport, and they caught Treadwell’s attention.
She went to a recruiting office resolved to join the branch of service represented in the first door to the right. That’s how she picked the Navy.
As an enlisted radioman/computer technician in Norfolk, Va., she also took classes at Hampton University full time at night.
When she got out of the Navy four years later, she went to Japan, teaching in a Defense Department elementary school. By then, she was married to a Navy man, had two sons and was working on her master’s degree.
Treadwell got a divorce, left the Navy and taught at elementary schools in Virginia. Her ex-husband was from Statesville and they often visited the area. In 2006, Treadwell bought a house in Matthews. She and Arthur Treadwell married in 2009 and had a daughter two years later.
As Treadwell looked forward to catching up with her family, she also planned to focus on writing her dissertation, titled “A Senior Female Naval Officer’s Perspective in the U.S. Navy.”
She loves the Navy and is ready for another deployment when the call comes years down the road. Also, she knows many others in the Charlotte region who have answered that call and said “they’ve inspired me.”
“If I don’t go, another mother or father has to go,” Treadwell said. “We all have to take our turn.”