*I want to open this series by first telling you that I, in no way, claim to be an expert on all things deployment. Certainly I have been through a lot of separations and deployments too, but my view points come from my own experiences as an Army turned Air Force wife (yes, same husband). I encourage anyone who would like to offer positive words of wisdom to others, to please feel free to leave a comment in the section below and the same for any questions that arise. Also, I realize there are many husbands that are the spouses of active duty wives. The majority of my readers are wives with active duty or retired husbands so for the sake of this series, I am using the wives as my main reader but please don't think I don't appreciate the role of the husband spouse as well! *
Ok, with that out of the way, let's move on!
The moment arrives when dear husband comes through the door with a look in his eyes that tells you before his words do. He's deploying. For a first time deployment, this can feel heart wrenching. Of course, we know this is what we are called to do as military wives but the sting of the word 'deployment' is still allowed to hurt. Often, the reactions range from, speechless, to disbelief, to anger (why us?), to a looming sadness. Eventually perhaps even numbness. None of us want to be apart from our husband, and we certainly don't wait with giddy anticipation for the day he gets to head out and risk his life in "the zone". This isn't to say we aren't more than proud of our men and that we don't recognize our distinct role in supporting him. We are human and we love our husband and we are allowed to feel all of the above and more one at a time or all at once.
Once the initial shock wears off, you will be able to start processing the information. There will be a briefing of some sort for you, the military wife. There will be a lot of information and you likely will not remember or understand it all. Take a notepad and a pen and write everything down that you can. This will allow you time to take it home and read over it for a few days until it starts to make sense. You will be given contact numbers for people waiting to answer your questions and you will also have a support group. In the Army, we had the FRG or Family Readiness Group to help offer support. Our FRG group was more than amazing. We were a sisterhood of sorts and looked out for each other every day. I met one of my very best friends in this group years ago and to this day, she is still one of my favorite people. In the Air Force, we have A&FRC or the Airman & Family Readiness Center which is fully staffed and equipped to help you through the deployment. MilitaryOneSource.org is a must have tool as well.
Now that you have the information, you can start sorting it out with your husband. Take care of the checklists and "must do's" as soon as you can so it's not hanging over your head. Understand that your husband will be busy completing his many checklists at work too probably up until the day before he deploys. This can be hard because naturally we want as many of those precious moments that we can stock up on as possible, but he will need your patience. He will probably seem distracted and this is natural too. He suddenly has a lot on his shoulders (as you do) and he's trying to hold it all together and be strong for you. Give him some extra TLC and tell him how proud of him you are. Not just anybody is called to protect and defend their country, but he is and therefore you are by supporting him and that deserves some praise. This is the time when it is absolutely crucial to have clear and strong communication with each other. Pray together. Don't be afraid to cry and tell him you're scared. He is too. Be careful not to only focus on the unknown and scary parts of this journey you are about to embark on. I have seen too often, the regret a wife feels after her husband has left for deployment because instead of trying her best to remain positive and lifted up in His word during the days leading to the deployment, she was trapped in the sadness and grief of sending her husband off which led to him leaving with a less than desirable memory. He doesn't want to leave you. I promise. It's his job. It's what he has to do.
When deployment day comes around pray together and send each other off in the most loving way you possibly can. You will cry. You will cry in your 12th deployment too. It's just the way it is. Try to send him off with a fond memory and lighten the mood. I always sneak something into The Aviator's bag. A picture, card, letter, or something homemade. I even do it when he just leaves for training. I know it means a lot to him and I even have a sneaking suspicion he looks forward to that little surprise! It's important that you maintain your normal schedule in the days right after he leaves. It will help you stay distracted in a sense and you won't be sitting around in your pj's for days on end with the blinds closed, bawling, wondering when he's going to call. He has a job to do and so do you. You need to be his support and you can't do that if you fall to pieces. So keep the home fires burning, go for a walk, pray for His strength and for Him to calm your heart and enlist the support of your friends and family. Since you are military, you probably don't live near most of your family but they can still help by keeping up with you on the phone or through Skype. This is when those friendships within your military community will really show their strength. Also, don't be afraid to call on your church family. That's what church family is all about. (If you don't have a church family or don't have a personal relationship with Our Savior, Jesus Christ, but would like to, please contact me!)
That's probably enough information for now. After all this is a blog post, not a book right?! I am looking forward to seeing the discussion this might bring forth. Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, Reserves..we are all in this together. I pray this is helpful to you and I hope to see you back here soon for the next post in this series!