Deployments are part of military life. It’s kind of our signature “thing.” It’s one thing that our spouses and families have to deal with that no other career gets the pleasure of experiencing (beside civilian contractors, but even then it’s different). It marks us as a group and is something that brings us together as “military families.” Deployments are often what define our service member as well. The combat they’ve seen, the experiences they’ve had but don’t speak about, are what makes them who they are as Marines, soldiers, airman, and seamen. But, what happens when there are no deployments?
Deployment? What’s That?
Sometimes in your active duty service member’s career there is a few year lull where they aren’t deploying. With troops effectively out of Afghanistan and Iraq, deployments are fewer than they were post 9-11 and the 13 years following. Your husband or wife may be at school or in a training command. Their unit may just be off-cycle for deployment. For most families at some point they will have a gap of a year or more where deployments are a distant memory of a life before.
During this time you get settled into a life with your spouse home almost every night, or at least with the knowledge that they are not in enemy territory. You can text them, you can call them, you can more readily FaceTime with them. They are “home” even if they aren’t physically in your presence, and that is a comforting feeling.
Of course, as with all things #militarylife, that time together all too quickly comes to a close. You leave school or training command, or your spouse’s unit gets back into deployment rotation and you find yourself asking- Deployment? What’s that?
The Non-Deployment Phase
Our family is in that phase- the non-deployment phase. We have been in this lull for five years now. Deployments seem like a long lost memory of this thing that happened this one time. Don’t get me wrong- my husband has been gone. A lot. In fact, for three years straight he might as well been deployed for how often he was gone (conveniently while I also had two babies in two years). Deployment may have actually been easier than him coming home every weekend and being gone all week.
We are PCSing this summer back to a regular, deployable unit. Once he is back in the fleet, all bets are off. The likelihood of him going through another deployment is likely. We have always known that this was going to happen once he left school and training commands, but it was something we both put away from our minds. No one around us was deploying,so since it wasn’t right in front of us we pushed it aside.
I honestly haven’t even thought of the repercussions of his next deployment until now. During his first deployment we didn’t have children. During his second, we had an infant who barely could lift her head before he left much less realize he was gone. Now we have three children, all of whom are acutely aware of daddy and expect him to come home
every most nights. They expect daddy to be there to kiss them goodnight. They haven’t seen an empty seat at the table in over a year. They don’t really know a life where daddy is gone for months and months at a time. I’m not even sure they know that it’s part of his job.
Although I know I am aware of how different our life has been for the past five years than what it typically is like, I have also gotten used to having my husband home. I have gotten used to hearing his loud truck coming in the drive, him mowing the lawn, and fixing all.the.things. I haven’t slept a half empty bed in over a year. I know I can call him or text him at any time. If there is an emergency, he will be at my side as soon as he can. Life is…normal.
As we prepare ourselves for the next chapter of our military life, I have begun to prepare myself and my two oldest children for the change of pace. He doesn’t have any known deployments coming up but we all know that can change at the drop of a hat and I want to be prepared when he comes home with “that face” (You know which one I’m talking about. They all have one. It’s the face they come home with when they have something to tell you that you aren’t going to like).
Ways to Prepare for Deployment…Before Orders Even Come
If you also have found your family in a non-deployment phase of military life and are wondering how to prepare yourself and your family for the next pick up phase of life, here are some ways you can get the family ready:
- Start Talking- Start chatting with your kids, in a casual way, about how part of your spouse’s job is to be gone for long periods of time. Grab some books from the library that help talk about deployment like:
- Prepare Yourself– Mentally, emotionally, physically. Get yourself in the mentality of deployment. Think about how the last deployments went and what you can do to make the next one successful.
- Get Stuff in Order– Are there certain things in your house that your spouse does? Maybe it’s the finances. Maybe it’s the yard work. Whatever it is, start having casual discussion about how things are handled, where information or necessary items are located, and what is expected during a deployment.
It’s easy to push things aside when you don’t even know if or when your active duty service member will deploy. But it’s always a smart idea to ensure that some things, for both you and your children, are discussed prior to having orders in hand so you can better deal with the news.
It can be a bit daunting to go from having your spouse always home to a position in which he or she may get orders any second to go overseas. Military life is unpredictable in every sense of the word but preparing yourself and your family for the inevitable, like deployment, can make the transition from non-deployment phase to deployment-ready much easier for everyone.
Photo Credits: Lauren Lomsdale