How To Prepare Your Family For A Deployment
Being married to the Army I have gone through a lot of deployments. My most recent one started last week. We have been through 2 six months, a 9 month, a 12 month and the dreaded 15 month long one. The one we are in now I'm not sure exactly how long it will last but I do know it won't be a 15 month one and that is what I am the most thankful for!
Most people don't understand how hard a deployment is on a family. It's not like it's a week long training meeting in California or New York. It's not like we get to talk to our spouses all the time (however it is a lot more often then it used to be for the most part). We don't know if our spouse will come home to us when he is supposed to. It's hard work surviving a deployment.
Surviving a deployment is going to have to be saved for a later time, this hub is going to be all about getting ready for the deployment. There is a lot of paperwork that has to be done and re-done. The kids have certain things they do to get ready for daddy being gone and I too have my own things that I make sure I have ready. So without further ado, here's how my family prepares for a deployment.
If you are in the Army (military really), you know it's coming. There is going to be that day you come down on orders to leave your family and fight for the country you love. For some it's a welcome break away and for others it's the worst news in the world. This being our 6th deployment I have come to terms with it I guess you can say. I understand that it is his job. It's not always his choice but it is his job to go, to fight for my freedom and the freedom of everyone else in this country. I honestly hate when he comes home with this news. My heart sinks and I feel like falling apart in tiny pieces and crying and pitching a fit. But I don't! I know the best way for my husband to come home to me afterwards, is to be strong about his time away. To understand that it is his job, not his decision.
The most important
Make sure you have all the proper paper work. It's hard to go through a lot of this, preparing the paperwork for his death and him not coming home. Having everything in line in case the worst things in the world happen while he is gone. Some of this paperwork includes
- Wills - For both you and your spouse. Just in case something horrible happens to the both of you, your property and family will be taken care of the right ways.
- Power of Attorneys - Make sure you have everything you need from housing POA's to Tax POA's. You can just get a General POA which really covers everything but I do know you can't use that for taxes.
- Death Paperwork - Some spouses don't bring this one home, but mine does. We go through who will be notified and who will call everyone else. We decide who will accompany his casket and all that and who will do what at the funeral. (and just so you know, this is for every single deployment that this is done *sigh*)
Preparing your kids
In my opinion it is important to tell your kids right when you find out yourself or there soon after. The more time they have to spend with Daddy the better. Now, we do not tell our kids where Daddy is going or when he is coming home exactly. They know he goes to his far away work to make sure we stay safe and to fight the bad guys. They don't know he's in danger most of the time or that there is a chance he might not come home. If we know when he's coming home we tell them it's after the closest birthday in the family. Some of the things we do for the kids before the deployment day is here are:
- Make sure each child has specific "Daddy time". Once a week until we leave each kid gets at least 30 minutes alone with Daddy doing whatever that kid wants. This gives them that special time with him before he leaves and helps make up for some of that lost time he will have.
- Each deployment we get the kids something "Daddy". We have done Build-A-Bear animals with Daddy's voices, photo blankets from www.Snapfish.com, photo pillows made by my Aunt Kathy, and Daddy dolls from the USO (the ones you add the picture to).
- We have sit down family dinners more often.
- We normally take the two weeks before deployment (known as block leave) to spend quality family time together. We are always doing something fun and stuff that we all like. One time we had the kids pick three spots on the map, and did one spot every other day. That was a lot of fun when we lived in Italy.
- The kids have their own special deployment calender that I add special stuff too. If we can arrange to have Daddy call on a certain day or time I put it on the calender. Each kid gets to pick two or three days a month to sleep in my bed with me, and those go on that calender as well. Anything that is really important goes on that calender while Daddy is gone.
- Because Daddy is gone there are more chores to do around the house. Normally we have him pick what each child's chore is while he is gone so they can help Mommy around the house. It's been a good strategy so far. The kids feel really special to know that they are getting to do something Daddy does and help me in the process.
For me, I honestly thought the deployments would get easier. I figured after I had gone through so many it would just be routine and not be a big bother. Boy was I wrong. My husbands last deployment was a 12 month tour to Afghanistan and we lived in Italy. We didn't know anyone really, it was a foreign country and I didn't know the language or how to get around very good. I didn't think anything could get worse then the feeling I had of being left alone there for a whole year. But this last time hit me a lot harder. I'm not sure if it's because we went and visited family for the last two weeks before he left (which we will never do again), or if it's the new unit he's with, but I've missed him a lot more and have gone a little more insane at the house with the kids then normal. It's OK though, I know we will survive this deployment with our heads held high and being closer then we've ever been before. To prepare for deployments, here's what I normally do:
- Make sure all the military paperwork is done. And make sure I have child care set up in case he is seriously injured and I have to go to Germany for a while.
- I make sure everything is set up for the kids to start school (if it's that time) and all the Dr. appointments are scheduled and ready. Doing it after he leaves is a bit harder because I have a tendency to forget a lot more since I'm always thinking about other things.
- I walk through the house and look for anything that needs to be fixed or moved before he goes. Some things he's better at doing then me, so having him do those things before he goes helps me out while he is gone.
- I find my deployment notebook and make sure it is by the bed with a pen. I use this notebook to write things down at night when I can't sleep. Putting it all down on paper really helps to get it off my mind so I can actually sleep. Some things are important things I don't want to forget to tell him and others are just little things that don't really matter.
- I start schedules and charts for the kids with chores and allowance. This way we all have something to follow while he is gone.
- I make a list of his wants and needs before he leaves. Yes some are crazy like an 80" 3D TV. While he is gone I will buy some of the things on the list so he will have them when he gets home. I also buy the stuff he thinks he will need while downrange. Sending care packages to him is always something I love doing. Even if there isn't anything special in it.
- Also before he leaves, I make sure we have family pictures taken. This might sound horrible but I do this in case he doesn't make it back home. I want to have that wonderful memory and pictures of us on the walls. If we didn't get these family pictures taken every deployment we might not have any at all.
A fellow hubber, teaches12345, asked me this question about deployments:
Does it affect your children each time? Has it gotten easier for them? What do you do to help them pass the time and do you keep a calendar -- like an advent, until he comes back home?
Yes it affects the kids each time. He missed the whole first 16 months of my sons life (well, he got two weeks off for R&R) so even though he knows daddy and loves him a lot I'm still his number one. My oldest takes it the hardest and I have a feeling my middle daughter is going to be hard to handle this time around too. It doesn't seem to get easier for them, the older they get the harder it is for them to understand. It might get easier when they are 10 or so but now they still don't know a whole lot about where and what he does. Depending on how long he is gone we have done calenders, advent calenders, videos at certain times of the deployment, etc. Each deployment my kids get a new "daddy" thing. They have blankets and pillows that have a picture of them and daddy on them. They have daddy animals that talk with daddy's voice. This year I think we are going to do the books from hallmark where daddy can read them to the kids each night. I try to keep the kids busy doing fun things. Some are new to us and some are things we always did while daddy was home. I do just about anything to help pass the time.
There is so much more that goes into a deployment and with our next one I think I might actually make a list but these are the ones I do every deployment. These times are never easy. They are full of tears and a full bed for me for the first few nights as my kids have a tendency to sleep with me at first. But if it can hurry up and get here then it can hurry up and be over with and he will be back home with us where he is supposed to be. Soon I will have number 6 over with, and it will be on to number 7.
Please pray for our men and women in uniform, for their friends and their families, that their soldier will come home safe. I feel very lucky that my husband is still in one piece (even though he has been hit by 10 IEDs and lost most of the hearing in one ear). I know with all my heart he will come home to us again. He is my hero after all.