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Fellow MIilSO blogger Jo, My Gosh! wrote about the top 5 most helpful and least helpful things people said to her during her fiancé’s 12 month deployment. Thisinspired me to think about what folks have said to me and what I’ve learned while he’s been away. It’s our first deployment and he’s already been gone 7 months out of a scheduled 6 (no, I didn’t write that backwards) and he’s not quite home yet, but I’ve ‘already’ discovered a lot of things. Here are my top 5 lessons learned from his deployment:
5. Communicate. Being with someone on deployment requires a lot of trust on both ends. Back home it’s easy for people to lecture you about how he’s off with a bunch of other guys getting into who knows what trouble, but you’re the one actually at home living a ‘normal’ life. While people are telling you that sailors “have a girl in every port” (yes, someone said that to me once), they’re swapping stories that go something like this: “And when he got home early from deployment and wanted to surprise her, he found her in bed with a Marine!!”
4. Commensurate. Deployment isn’t fun! But you know what? You are in good company. Even if you live away from his duty station and can’t get together with other ladies experiencing the same deployment, chances are good someone you know has been through it on one side or the other. A lot of things about deployment haven’t changed that much – your grandmother might even be willing to listen and share her experiences! I’m very fortunate to have two former military female classmates to talk to (and one of them is engaged to an Air Force man who just got home, so she’s experienced it from both sides!) and another friend married to a Navy man. Even if you’re far from base and don’t know a single person who’s ever served or loved someone who did, the Internet can connect you to folks who will understand what you’re going through – check out groups like the Mil SO Blogging Community. At the very least, it can help you realize you aren’t alone.
3. Break it down. If you look at the number of days from the very beginning, you’ll feel pretty overwhelmed! Instead, break it into more manageable chunks. Do you play Wednesday night trivia with your friends? Count the number of trivia nights you have left before his return instead of the days. If you don’t have a weekly activity, find the approximate half way point in his deployment and count towards it. Then, count down away from it. By breaking the overall time in half, things will seem a bit less daunting.
2. Don’t count on it until it’s happened. Military schedules change all the time. Sometimes they don’t leave when scheduled (hooray!), and other times they don’t come home when expected. I’m not saying sit around moping about every weekend off assuming he’ll get called in, but I’ve learned you really can’t count on something happening until it is literally already occurring. Yes, it can be annoying and it is certainly an emotional rollercoaster ride, but I try to look on the bright side. Whenever we actually do have time together, it is an incredible treat and we make sure not to waste it arguing about petty things or worrying about how he’s leaving again soon.
1. Remember it’s not his choice. Before someone argues with me, yes, he chose to be in the military, but his actual schedule is not his choice. I think some people take it personally with their military man isn’t there for a (birthday, holiday, anniversary, special event, dinner, etc), but it’s just not his choice. Additionally, sometimes he can’t communicate for days, and other times he can’t really say much of anything even when he can get in touch. He isn’t trying to make you feel ignored or left out – it’s just what has to happen.
Whenever I find myself feeling too down, I just remind myself how lucky we are today. With the Internet, people can talk to and Skype loved ones across the world, and even those of us with submariners can send emails their way. I cannot image what deployment life prior to the Internet was like! He may not always be able to write back and sometimes emails take a few days to reach him, but it is amazing to know I can communicate with him when he’s so far away.
Yes, deployment is hard for everyone, but I know he’s worth every single minute of waiting.