Mark Johnson reports:

56 days .?.?. 55 days .?.?. 54 days .?.?. Chelsea Caudle began signing her text messages this summer with a countdown. At 14 years old, she knew no better way to express what was coming. Day Zero was to be Oct. 7, the day Dad left for Army basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C. He was moving 950 miles from their home in Watertown, 950 miles from Mom. He was leaving, even though Mom was sick with ovarian cancer. Even though he had been at her side through two long, miserable rounds of chemotherapy. Even though she now faced the likelihood of a third. In fact, Dad was leaving because Mom was sick.

In March, he was laid off from his job as a raw materials coordinator for a plastics company called PolyOne, where he'd worked for 20 years. His severance package had provided several months' salary, but by August the paychecks were winding down. Soon the cost of his family health coverage was going to triple, then a few months after that, nearly triple again. They needed coverage so Mom could fight her cancer. Dad's solution: a four-year hitch in the Army.

(Hat tip: Zaid Jilani)

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