How to Handle Deployment the First Time Around...
Someone once told me that it takes a special kind of person to be a soldier, especially during a time of war. Different people join the military for different reasons and many of them opt to serve their time and move on. Some of them, however, choose to make a career of it, and when they make that choice, their family makes it with them. They go to all the schools, earn all the awards and ribbons and plan to become officers from the beginning. My husband is this kind of soldier. A lot goes into being a soldier. It takes discipline, determination, work ethic, physical strength, all of these things combined and more to be a good soldier. But what does it take to be a soldier’s wife?
Well, coming into it, I didn’t realize that my husband’s commitment to the Army was mine and our children’s as well. My husband isn’t the type of soldier who views time away from home (i.e. deployment, training, etc.) as a sacrifice, but instead as a duty. I will admit that at first I was a bit jealous of the Army because it seemed to always take my husband away. The benefits are good, but I began to ponder; is it really worth it?
We have not celebrated an anniversary together in the 2 ½ years that we’ve been married. We haven’t celebrated my birthday together since 2007. He missed our daughter’s fourth birthday, our son’s second birthday and our youngest son’s first birthday. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Halloween were solo this year while he’s on deployment and I can’t even count the times he’s been away doing field training when he is stateside. This is job, though. He’s a military police attached to an infantry unit in the 3rd Brigade Heavy Combat Team. Training is essential to survival, and I understand that. I quickly adjusted
We knew the first day we arrived at our first duty station that in exactly 13 months he would be deploying. The months flew by, and I kept telling myself that it was okay. I had prepared for handling the children, the finances and any other thing that came to mind, but I hadn’t prepared for the mental part. They prepare the soldiers when they train, but they don’t prepare the wives. They tell you a few tips on how to deal, but the truth is until you go through a deployment you don’t understand what it’s like. The day they left, I tried my best to hold back my tears for the children and my husband’s sake but as I watched him board the white bus to take him to the airport I burst into tears. My daughter, who was three at the time, looked up at me and said, “Mommy, daddy said if you cry to tell you that you need to be a big girl.” I smiled and wiped my eyes. I knew that she and my oldest son didn’t understand what was happening, and maybe even a lot of the people standing around didn’t understand either. I cried, not because of the fact that he was going away for a year. I was use to that in some aspects, but I was crying because 4,000 soldiers left Ft. Benning in October 2009, but I knew that 4,000 weren’t coming back in 2010. What I didn’t know was if my husband would be one of them. The loneliness began to set in by the third week, along with the paranoia. If the phone rang, I jumped. If there was an unexpected knock on my door, my heart raced. The first few weeks you hear very little if anything from your soldier as they transition to their various duty stations and assignments in the Middle East.
Army Family Strong
It is what it is...
First, my husband suffered a minor non-combat related injury soon after arriving. It was scary to say the least, worrying about him being in hospitals in a country where everything is being bombed, and not knowing the extent of his illness or the quality of his care, but I had a duty to my husband and my children to keep it together. I also had to keep it together for all of the extended family members who counted on me as their point of contact. There was no sleep for that week while I waited for him to recover and to hear some news. The phone calls came far and few in between and the signal was always terrible. A few words, a mock kiss and good-bye. Was this the last time we’d talk? I realized that this was not healthy for me and probably not normal so I sought help from others who had gone through this before me. I learned that it is like that for everyone on their first go round. For some in 3rd Brigade, this marked the 4th deployment. After a few months, they got settled into what is normal for them, and my husband purchased internet access which enabled us to have a regular form of communication revolving around his schedule. It’s not ideal, but it’s something, and it’s more than soldiers in previous years have had.
Only a few weeks after they left, before they were “settled”, we learned of a death through e-mails titled “The Velvet Hammer”. We have received several of these messages as this deployment reaches almost nine months. I don’t know all of them personally, but I always say a prayer for their souls and for their families who have been left behind. I think; which one was he/she getting on that bus last year? I wonder; what was the last thing they talked about with their loved ones? Did they get to say goodbye before the poor signaled internet dropped the call? Did they get to say I love you? Did they have a fight and not get to make-up because they were called out for a mission or meeting or other duty? I say another prayer for continued safety for those still fighting and a special prayer that it is in God’s plan for my husband to come home.
All these things go through my mind, but I don’t make them known. If there is a problem at home, I handle it because I don’t want to add extra stress on my husband in an already stressful situation. My husband loves his job. He misses his family, but the duty is worth it. It’s not about those who call soldiers murders or protest the war because they can’t understand why it happens. I know why my husband fights, and so does he, and so does God. I go on with everyday life with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. I’m proud of my soldier. I’m preparing for his return and for the adjustment it will be for our children who have come to know daddy as an image on a computer screen. My youngest won’t recognize him, and the older two will have to become reacquainted with him. I have to get back into the routine of being a wife, and not just a single mom. I have to relinquish some of the duties that have become routine to me in my husband’s absence. It will all happen in time.
The future isn’t certain for us. We may live here for a while, and we may not. He may redeploy soon, and he may not. Nothing is set in stone for us, but that’s okay with me. I am content with my husband’s choice to serve our country and I will do all in my power to make sure our family remains strong through the uncertainty of our lives. I will provide stability for our children in an ever moving world. I will provide strength for my husband during his weakest moments. I will defend his honor with honesty and truth to anyone who defames his character because of his job. I am an Army wife, and I love it…….