Sgt. Dihann Royer, 36, of New York City expects to deploy for Afghanistan early next year, leaving her 9-year-old daughter in the custody of her mother, Mavis Royer Belle. It’s not the family’s first goodbye.

Dihann, a licensed nurse and army reservist medic, served a 14-month tour of duty at Abu Ghraib in Iraq in 2005-2006.

“That was the hardest time for me,” Royer Belle said.

Royer Belle, 53, looked after Dominique, then 5 years old, while the little girl’s mother was at war.
“She was crying all the time,” Royer Belle recalled.


Shortly after her daughter’s deployment, Royer Belle was diagnosed with first thyroid and then kidney cancer. She remained Dominique’s sole guardian through surgeries — to remove her thyroid and a kidney, along with a 10-pound tumor from her kidney.

She’s cancer-free now, but scared to think of her daughter in Afghanistan. She’s behind the troops’ mission to fight for freedom, but thinks the U.S. is getting stuck in Afghanistan. “It might be a lose-lose situation,” she said. “So much money spent in Iraq, now we’re doing the same thing in Afghanistan. When are we going to recover from this?”