With the help of friends and her church, Nicole Sykes of Quincy is coping with the absence of her husband, Sgt. Adrian Gunn who is serving in Iraq.

Until this year, Nov. 8 had no special importance for Nicole Sykes. But this time around, during what Sykes calls a “lost year,” she was keenly aware of that particular Thursday.


It marked the completion of one-third of her husband’s yearlong deployment with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment of the Army National Guard.


Sgt. Adrian Gunn is in Iraq. He and his wife last saw each other in late August in Mississippi, just before his unit shipped out to the war.


“It seems significant,” Sykes said of Nov. 8. “You can’t look at all the time that still has to come. You have to focus on what you’ve already accomplished.”


Most days go by quickly for Sykes, 26, a preschool teacher who attends graduate school two nights a week.


“There’s five hours every day I don’t even think about it (her husband’s deployment to Iraq) until (the preschoolers’) nap time. It’s really helpful,” she said of her daily routine. “I stay very busy.”


She lives in the Wollaston section of Quincy, alone now that her husband is overseas.


“You could worry about it nonstop but that doesn’t change the fact that whatever happens three days from now is out of your hands. So it’s better to accept it as it is,” Sykes said. “I just take it day to day.


The young couple – they were married in 2004 – usually talk two or three times a week by telephone and a few times they’ve been able to see each other on their laptop computers while they talk.


“Communication (with Adrian) has been much more predictable and much more frequent than I ever would have hoped,” Sykes said. “It’s much better now for us than I expected.”


Her expectations were at their lowest in September, soon after Gunn and his unit left Camp Shelby in Mississippi for Iraq and had no way of communicating with loved ones back home. Sykes didn’t hear from him for four days.


“All communication has stopped temporarily,” Sykes said at the time. “That’s what’s tough.”


But with the moral support of friends and her fellow members of United First Parish Church in downtown Quincy, she got through those anxious days.


“The members of our church have been trying to show our support for both Nicole and Adrian,” said Lynne Courtney, a church member and the unofficial coordinator of care packages being sent to Gunn every few days.


“We have been, for the most part, very vocal opponents of the war since it began,” Courtney said. “Yet when Adrian announced his deployment my in-box was flooded with donations to purchase gifts for him from these very same people. It seems as though we are able to separate the man from the mission. And he is truly a good man.”


Sykes said that for now, she is coping with the separation from her husband.


“I’m not pretending everything is OK. I’m just handling it OK. I want to say it now, because I don’t know if that’s how I’ll handle it in the future,” she said.


“Adrian is there. I’m here. It’s a lost year. But it’s not a lost lifetime. There are going to be other Octobers.”


Amelia Kunhardt may be reached at akunhardt@ledger.com.