Last night at church I was chatting with a girlfriend and the topic of deployment came up. She’s an Airman (is that right? is a lady in the Air Force still called an Airman?). Anyways, she’s in the Air Force, she knew my husband is deployed now and she asked me how I was doing. It was so awesome that she took the time to ask how I was doing. We ended up having a little chat about deployments, attitudes to have when dealing with one, and finding the silver lining on a big ole dark cloud. And as it turns out, deployment can be pretty awesome in some ways.
As we kept talking she asked if I had ever shared this opinion with other folks who deal with deployments. To which I replied that I never shut up about it. I’m sure my friends in the military community are actually sick of all the rainbows and butterflies I spout when it comes to this topic… but, for new readers to my blog, or for people who haven’t heard my pep talk yet, I’m going to fill you in: deployments can be awesome.
Deployments are Inevitable
Afghanistan, Iraq, The Philippines, Korea, Libya, Japan, Haiti, the Aegean Sea… and who knows where else. Chances are if you’re a military family, your loved one has been sent to one or more of these places in recent years. Chances are your loved one is there right now. And whether its a combat deployment or a humanitarian mission – the basic suckiness of the situation exists: your loved one is not at home.
Separation is hard. When the communication is only one-way, its even harder. When your loved one is in harm’s way, that makes things hard too. There are many aspects of dealing with a deployment that is just no fun at all. But for every storm cloud, there is a silver lining. Even the cumulonimbus of deployment.
The standard deployment length for my husband’s unit is 210 days, roughly seven months. I know that every branch is different, but for my situation, we’re talking seven months so that’s what I’m going to refer to while I prattle on here.
It is what it is
My husband will be deployed for seven months.
The first step is accepting this fact. Nothing I can say or do is changing this fact. My husband signed a contract with the United States Marine Corps, he is an Infantryman, active duty, and we are a nation at war. So, when they say he is deploying for seven months – that’s it. HE IS DEPLOYING FOR SEVEN MONTHS. That fact is unchangeable.
How I react to that fact is my choice.
I can have seven months to worry, cry, complain, whine, stomp my feet, and be angry. I can hate life for seven months. I can be bitter and resentful. I can stay glued to the TV and watch news from the front lines and get all worked up. I can do that for seven months.
OR… I can make the best of it.
And I choose to make the best of it.
Making the Best of It – Personal Growth
Deployment offers a lot of aweosome opportunities for personal growth. This is my chance to become more independent, to work on myself, to do what I want to do. By becoming self-reliant, I get to learn what I’m made of!
During deployment, I have all of this time just for me. I can focus on my own needs and wants. This can range from using the time to focus on school, to getting a new hobby or learning a foreign language, to such simple self-indulgences as always getting to watch what I want to watch on TV and getting to have for dinner what I want to have for dinner!
Personal growth is an on-going thing; I’m always looking for aspects of myself to improve on, even when my husband is home. But its the aloneness and independence I have during deployment that allows for a supercharged period of personal growth. During our last deployment, I was focusing on nursing school. During this deployment, I’ve been focusing on spiritual development and my physical health.
I have lots of hobbies, I always have. I’m a dabbler for certain. During deployment I have way more “me” time, so I’m able to really dig into my hobbies. I’ve been crafting up a storm, and I even started this here blog. Fancy!
Rekindling the Romance
Is there anything more romantic than a hand-written love letter sent from the front lines of a war? (You should have just literally swooned after reading that). As a spouse/significant other going through a deployment, the opportunity to work on the relationship is incredible.
The romance factor is hardcore. Handwritten love letters. Care packs. Finding creative ways to express love across the miles. The ways and means that we develop to be thoughtful and sweet on each other are just so intense compared to the normal non-deployment life. When you live with your spouse everyday, the sweet stuff easily falls by the wayside. When you get a weekly phonecall and your husband says something that makes you weak in your knees, its just so powerful.
And if you’ve read my blog, hopefully you’ve seen my entries about care packs. I go nuts. They are so special and intimate in their own ways: I hand make each one just for my husband. When we live together, I don’t make him care packs. But when we’re apart, that’s my way of feeling close to him and connecting. And when he opens them, its like being connected to me. I always tell him that when I feel lonely, I start working on a care pack and I instantly feel close to him again. We just find these special, sweet ways to feel that love and to make that love stretch out 12,000 miles.
And let’s not kid, love letters (a crucial part of deployment in my opinion) are so romantic. I love how my husband and I have an old fashioned romance in some ways, as the way we fell for each other (and continue to fall) was developed over the course of letter writing.
Strengthening the Relationship
All of the separation and lonely nights does wonders for building your appreciation for each other. I value every hug, kiss, cuddle, and hand hold so much more than I could have if we never had to be apart from each other so much. I’m not trying to say that non-military relationships and non-military folks don’t value love, I just know that in my personal experience the separation of deployment has upped my appreciation quotient infinitely.
Trust. So much trust is built during a deployment. Its often said that a deployment can make or break a couple, and I think that refers to the aspect of trust. Being so far away from each other, with so little communication, everything relies on trust. And I mean trust in the sense of fidelity, but also in other ways. Right now my husband is trusting me to pay the bills on time, to take care of our dog. He’s trusting that I’m really doing everything I’m saying I’m doing. And vice versa, I just have to trust him. I trust that when he says he didn’t have a chance to call for a week, he meant that. I trust that when he says he’s fine, he’s telling the truth.
My husband and I came through our first deployment as a couple with flying colors. He realized a few days after he was reintegrating to being home that he was going to marry me. Just the way we made it through deployment: the trust that we built, the way we supported each other, the way we got through it, we did it together. It was just this ultimate test of our relationship, and when it was all said and done, we had earned an A+.
I love how strong my friendships become during deployment. As a single gal, you have such strong friendships with your lady friends. But once you’re married, it can be hard to balance girl time with wife time. Not during deployment! I have an awesome group of girlfriends who keep my spirits up and keep me busy while my hubs is away. We also have become a support network, and we’re there for each other. Those events in life where you’d normally call your husband first – we call each other now. And in that way we’ve strengthened our friendships (and shared a lot of laughs: you should see two chicks trying to fix a broken truck, but you do what you gotta do, right?).
During deployment I also find that I’ve been strengthening my familial relationships. I talk to my Mom every single night now. When my husband is home that doesn’t really happen; we have so much going on in the evenings (its our only time together) so interrupting that to call my mom every night would get old, fast. But now that I’m home alone, I love having my nightly chats with my Ma. And because of those chats, our relationship has really improved, its actually the best its ever been.
Its also been awesome seeing how supportive my entire family has been of my husband. My Mom, my Dad and Stepmom, my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins – they’ve all been sending care packs and letters to my husband. How awesome is that? In their own ways, they’re all getting closer with my husband; and on my end – seeing them all support my husband like that makes my love and appreciation of them grow even deeper. See how its all a win-win?
And its not just my side of the family. The same goes for my Mother-in-Law and my Brother-in-Laws, and all of my husband’s relatives. While my husband has such limited means of communication, its often up to me to keep his side of the family in the loop. Normally, if he was home he’d call his brothers and chat, he’d email his Aunt. But now that I get to do that, we’ve really developed our own relationships, which is awesome. I love that I’ve been getting to know his family better on my own, and without deployment I’m sure that would still happen, it would just be on a slower schedule, a different time frame.
There is NO GREATER feeling in the world. I don’t even know how to describe what its like. Take every Christmas morning, multiply that by the night before your wedding and add in graduating from school. Its all these emotions and more. You’re nervous, excited, anxious, and you feel so freakin’ accomplished. This amazing feeling of holy-crap-we-really-did-it and omg-he’s-really-home-and-safe just makes homecoming a super emotional, amazing time.
The unexplainable joy of homecoming makes a deployment feel worth it. At least in that moment it does. Its such a high, if you’ve never experienced it, its so hard to understand. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to youtube and search “military homecoming” and just watch (and get out the kleenex). During deployment, sometimes I like to torture myself by watching homecoming videos and just let myself bawl like a baby.
Homecoming is the ultimate dangling carrot. Its what we all strive for everyday. That moment when you run up to him and hug him, and you can see him for yourself, and feel him in your arms. You can smell him again, the real him and not some tee shirt you’ve been sleeping with for seven months. That its really him moment. And you know that he is here, and safe, and standing on glorious American soil – that is what we all live for. Its the ultimate.
It’s All In How You Look At It
I could go on and on about the ways you can make the best of deployment. (I haven’t even mentioned the extra pay, how much money we save because I only have to buy groceries for myself, etc.). I could go on, but I don’t want to make this entry impossibly long to read.
Obviously there are aspects of deployment that are not fun, that are miserable. Having your loved one away from home for so long is HARD. Its challenging. There are days where I downright hate it. There are scary moments, and to say I don’t worry at all would be an outright lie. But, its happening whether I like it or not. So how I manage it, how I react to it – that part is all up to me, and that’s what I’m preaching here.
What it really boils down to is your life view: are you a glass half full kind of person? If you chose to be an optimist, than even in the crappiest of situations (and going through a deployment is probably up there) – you can find the perks, the silver linings, the good things that do come out of it. How you react to a deployment is all up to you.
Are you gonna whine for seven months? Or are you going to bust out the glitter glue and get to making care packs?
God Bless all of our deployed service members and their families, and may all who are deployed come home safe.