I want you to picture a hill with valley’s on each side. In many ways a hill can describe a deployment. Over this series I will discuss the different parts of the daunting deployment hill, along with tools to help you navigate this very stressful time. You’re probably thinking, what even makes me qualified to give advice on this. I’ve been there, three times now and each deployment had its fair share of differences and difficulties between them. With my husband’s career in the Marine Corps coming to a close it’s made me think of how much the past 14 years has effected us and how we overcame those deployment years, and came out stronger. Giving up has never been an option in our marriage, and never will be.
That hill I mentioned well this is all about the valley before the hill, the calm before the storm. One thing I have learned is to be as prepared as you can to make it all easier on you if the s*** hits the fan while your significant other is deployed.
Before they leave no matter where they are being sent, make sure you have all of the paper work done that you will need while they are gone. I mean POA (power of attorney), living will, family care plan, even contact any and all billing places that you have accounts with to make sure you are authorized to deal with them in emergency situations. The last thing you want to deal with when your spouse is on the other side of the world is credit card fraud and not have any power to fix it because no one took the time to make sure you have the authority to do so. Be prepared because if it will or can go wrong it will when they are deployed. If you haven’t heard of it yet, this is called the Murphy’s Law of Deployment and it sucks. Dryers will break, cars will get flat tires, kids will break bones(or you will). It happens and all you can do is embrace the suck, pull on some big girl panties and fix it. Go to any and all pre deployment briefs, they really do have good info and people there to get to know that will be your point of contact for this deployment.
Get to know your FRO, Family Resource Officer, usually a female civilian at the squadron levels, but a military personnel at the bigger parent units. I am speaking from my experience with the Marine Corps, they may be called something else in other branches. They can be the best thing next to sliced bread during a deployment. For example say you are 8 months pregnant, you are 2 months into a 7 month deployment and you need help getting a mattress and moving other furniture to get ready for the incoming baby. Call your FRO, literally the words out of my mouth were “I need some muscles”, she responded with, “someone will be over in a couple of minutes!” We lived on base and were a part of a unit that only had half deploy at a time so half of my husband’s shop was still there, and boy was I blessed that day! An amazing Gunny came over followed me up to the store to get the mattress, followed us home, set it up and even helped me move a couple dressers. Could not have thanked him enough for how much he helped me that day! But I digress… Your FRO is there to help you with any questions you may have. But my point is getting to know who you can call for help, make a list and leave it on your fridge or someplace you can easily locate. Cause if your washer breaks down you need to know who to call for help. Whether it is your FRO, local friends, family, or a church family. Make sure they all know what is going on, this includes asking for help if you need it with yard work, get all of that set up now instead of waiting. That way if your husband is peculiar about how his yard is cut then he can be the one to give directions of how it should be taken care of.
Probably one of the most difficult parts to deal with aside from watching them pack is discussing the living will and what to do if the unimaginable happens. You need to know their wishes and have a plan for yourself on top of their plains that should be in the Family Care Plan. It is never fun to discuss these topics but very necessary.
The Family Care Plan can be more important than a POA during deployment. This is the document that will tell the Unit what plan should be taken if anything should happen to you or any children while your significant other is gone. Say you are in a serious car accident and have no family nearby and had kids in the car that were fine but you had to get rushed to the hospital. This document will state who to call for help with your children and who can have temporary custody of your children till you are well enough to manage without help. I used a car accident as an example, but simply if something were to happen to you, you need a legal plan of custody for your child(ren) to be taken care of. If you do not have a plan set with the command having a copy then the local state could have every right to take custody of your child(ren) till you are deemed fit to do so, regardless if you are mother of the year. Your child(ren) will thank you for having a plan place cause if it is needed then they should be able to quickly be taken care of by people they know instead of strangers making an already stressful situation even worse.
If you have children, use this time to discuss what will be happening soon. It is better that they have warning instead of waking up one day and suddenly that parent is on a “trip” and wont be back for months. There are a few companies out there who make “Daddy Pillows”. It’s basically a picture of the deploying service member printed onto some fabric and made into a stuffed animal type thing. We just went to the Exchange and got some camo printed pillows that had a picture sleeve in it. we had one for each kid and on the deployment day we would take pictures of just them and Daddy and put it in their pillow for them to hug and hold on to when Daddy was gone.
Don’t forget about birthday’s and holiday’s chances are your deployment will span over one or many of these. For us two of them were over the winter holidays and birthdays. It is never easy to deal with but certainly more manageable if you start coming up with a plan now. Acquire a mail time frame to make sure any gifts get to the service member in time for any birthday’s or even Christmas. You should be able to get a good time frame of how long packages will take to get to them from the FRO or even the service member. They will sometimes have a mail address before they leave or at least a temporary one to use . Fair warning packages can take weeks to get to them depending on where they are. so when sending food items especially during the hot months do not, I repeat… do not send anything that can melt!
Once you have all of the much-needed paperwork sorted out. Make memories, go do things and spend as much time as you can with your significant other before deployment day. Take pictures to look back on during the deployment.
Remember it is ok to cry. Military life is not for the faint of heart, and deployments are anything but easy both for the Military member and the family staying home. You will be pushed to your limits and you are not the first nor the last, because of this remember you are never alone during this.
You can find other parts of this series here:
You can read my disclaimer here.