I remember going through my first deployment with my husband. We were married only three weeks before he departed. The day he left, he dropped me off at the San Diego airport so I could catch my flight back to Chicago. Because he was in his flight suit and planned to head to the airfield and the waiting jets, he couldn’t get out of the car. We hugged, tears streamed down my face, and my arms and legs turned to rocks-I couldn’t imagine opening the car door. Finally, like one who stands on the edge of a diving board above a cold pool, I just jumped. My arms and legs moved reflexively. There I stood outside the airport and watched his car pull away, (amidst happy couples and families readying for vacations and general happy-go-lucky travel) and it felt as though the world was spinning around me and I was the only thing standing still.
2,000 miles away from base and far too many thousands of miles away from him, those initial days were exceptionally rough. In the beginning, there was resentment: most couples return home together from a honeymoon, I thought. They start their life together, move in together, get on with life…together. Instead, back in my city apartment, I stared at boxes of unopened wedding gifts, not able to bear unwrapping anything. My life was no longer permanent in Chicago and the glasses, picture frames and small kitchen appliances seemed safer in their original packages. There was hope: the next time I opened them, we’d be together, PCS’d to the east coast– a fuzzy version of the future.
I relied upon that fuzzy version to emotionally ‘survive’ that deployment. But, I also relied upon my busy work schedule, my energetic and lovely friends, supportive family and yes, even–especially my sweet dog, Gilda.
Everyone’s survival mode looks different, but there are some tips that feel universally helpful. We reached out to some smart and deployment savvy spouses to share their best tips on getting through a deployment. Some of these are emotional, and others practical-all are helpful. We can’t wait to share them with you!
1. Activate your village! Be intentional about asking for help. Even if “help” means ten minutes of adult conversation over a glass of cheap chardonnay. Deployment is isolating; we have to reach out to stay sane. -Reda Hicks, 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year
2. Keep a stocked supply of mouse traps! Gather important phone numbers (1st Sgt, chain of command, etc.) and make sure you have a system for paying bills! Get a POA, talk with your service member about expectations on when you’ll hear from them once they’re OCONUS and don’t become a news junkie hoping to hear something about where they are! And last, set goals for the deployment (lose 10 lbs, train for a 5k, complete a certification or training course) Joy Draper, Air Force Spouse
3. My deployment trick was to find my umbrella before my husband left. I say that figuratively, because when it rains it pours during deployment. Find those friends and family that you can call in emergency, someone who you know will not hesitate help or expect the favor returned. I found my umbrella with my neighbors in a new city. When my two-year old son was hospitalized for week, I couldn’t take care of my nine-month daughter at the same time. I called a neighbor, almost a stranger to me, to help. She took my daughter for three days until I could fly my mother in to help. No joke. When it rains it pours during deployment, so grab your umbrella now. -Stacy Allsbrook Huisman, Air Force Spouse