I have been quiet about the fact that my husband is deployed to Afghanistan online. This is to protect his safety and mine (see OPSEC in the glossary). But as the deployment winds down (countdown is in double digits!!) I want to share what it was like for me.
First of all deployment is no fun. I know that it’s my husband’s job to go, but wow, no fun. I really miss him. Every. Single. Day. And you just have to learn to deal with it.
While there are things that you can do to prepare while he’s gone, get powers or attorney and set a budget, there is nothing to prepare you for the absence. And even after almost 4 years of long distance dating, 9 months without seeing someone is a whole new game. We talk frequently online, phone calls occur semi-frequently depending on how busy he is, and Skype has been rare (partly due to poor Internet connection). I get beyond excited whenever he calls or is online, it just makes me so happy to hear from him. You can’t just call Afghanistan when you want to talk, so those 15-30 minutes every few days are amazing.
Being our first deployment I had no idea what to expect. I talked to people who had been through it before and I took some of their advice: I took the day off the day after he left to basically be sad, eat ice cream, have a pity party, etc. I took that time on purpose to have time to really process what was going on before moving forward. I knew he was going to leave for months, but saying goodbye, hugging and kissing him one last time, is difficult. I don’t have words to describe it. I can tell you that I can see that embrace and goodbye like it was yesterday. But afterwards I went home and ate dinner, eventually slept, spent the next day watching Saved by the Bell on Netflix, just took a me day, because I knew that after that I needed to live life as close to normal as I could, because you can’t sit on your butt for 9 months. This may sound silly, but some people truly think that as a spouse you’re going to sit around and wait. Sure my phone is always on and I worry more, but the idea that life stops, and can stop, is just false.
I had someone tell me, “You’re holding up well…I’ve seen people fall apart.” One, I don’t think they’ve seen people fall apart, this person is a lot of talk. But while I have had my moments of sadness over the last few months, the idea of falling apart or giving up wasn’t an option for me, or anyone I know. What would happen if you stop eating? What if you don’t pay attention to your bills? As a spouse of a deployed soldier, a lot falls on your shoulders. You also hear often as a spouse that staying afloat is important for the morale of your loved one. And I’d say that’s true. Sure I ask my husband his advice on the car and our budget but the fact that I’m taking care of it helps him stay focused on his job. For him, that makes his life a bit easier. And on the bad days? I vent to him. I tell him how much I miss him. He misses me too, but each day is a day closer to being back together.
Yeah I know, totally cheesy, but I tend to be an optimist. Negativity would not have helped me get through each day. But, have I had days where I just couldn’t get out of bed? Yep. Most definitely. I partly attribute this to my inability to fall asleep at night, that moment in the day when my mind wanders to anything and everything. It happens when our unit lost Soldiers, or friends were badly injured. But after those bad days, I remind myself that we’re a day closer, that I’ve been doing this and can keep doing this. I attend memorial services to pay tribute to the men we lost. I follow the amazing and inspiring progress of the wounded warriors. I know that I need to keep on moving forward, just like they are.
But hands down, going to bed is the worst part of my day. I miss having someone in the bed next to me, especially now that it’s cold, seriously, I need my bed warmer back! Just kidding…kinda. I get sucked into HGTV far too easily (I mean you signed up for Property Brothers, of course you’re getting a renovation project, really? K I’ll stop before I go too far…). Or if it’s been awhile since I talked to my husband I will stay up just to see if he gets online.
Despite all of it though, the number one thing that got me through deployment were the amazing friends I’ve made out here in Washington, from work to our FRG to the Spouses Club, I have a great support network. We call each other to check in or have dinner nights so we don’t have to cook for one. Coffee dates and taco bus lunches are a delicious and great way to relax. We have a trivia group that kicks some butt at a local bar. We introduced a friend to the wonderful world of vegetables (seriously). We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, births, and milestones together. Seriously, without them I really would have been on my couch for nine months (but in all seriousness, I love my couch).
So as it all wraps up all I can think about is how excited I am to say hello and welcome home to my husband, and how much I can’t wait to relax and go on a vacation with him. How it’ll be nice to cook for someone else, and not have leftovers for weeks. To have some help around the house, and my bed warmer. It’ll be a transition to coordinate our schedules and lives and reconnect, but it’s just another milestone in our life.
How did you survive a deployment of your loved one? Any tips for the other families and spouses going through one right now?