No matter how prepared we servicemembers and spouses think we are for a deployment, it’s inevitable that something will slip through the cracks. This can spell DISASTER!!So when we were writing our book, The Ultimate Deployment Guidebook, we asked both male and female servicemembers one question: What do you wish you had explained to your spouse before deployment?
The men and women in uniform who we talked to had some very different answers. The following list was written from both the male and female point of view to develop a better deployment preparation checklist.
HE SAYS: I wish I had taught her how to operate the fireplace—which would also have involved teaching her how to use the chainsaw.
SHE SAYS: I wish I had taught him how to operate the fireplace. When someone gets frustrated because they can’t get a fire started, copious quantities of lighter fluid are NOT the answer!
HE SAYS: I wish I had taught her exactly how to access military medical care. It’s more complicated than it looks.
I wish I had purchased safety equipment for the children for when their father decides to play circus with them and tosses them across the room.
I wish I had bought helmets and knee and elbow pads to use on the homemade skateboard/bike ramps they built while mom was away. I wish I had taught the kids know how to dial 911 so when their father shows them how he used to jump off the roof of his house as a kid. Then the children can call the ambulance for him.
HE SAYS: I wish I had taught her how to operate the alarm system. I thought she knew.
SHE SAYS: I wish I had taught him how to operate the security system. To me, a security alarm means a computerized system designed to detect unauthorized entry into a property.
For the guy I married, he thinks “security system” means either a baseball bat or a firearm. One man I know actually refers to his two fists as “Dynamite and Titanium.”
I wish I had emphasized practicing firearm safety, especially if there are children in the home. I wish I had insisted on inviting the security system folks over to pitch the importance of having an actual system.
HE SAYS: I wish we had talked more about contacting utilities, maintenance and repairmen.
SHE SAYS: I wish I had talked more about contacting utilities, maintenance and repairmen. I wish I had kept a copy of the list of phone numbers so when he “misplaces” the list I could have squared him away.
I wish I had stopped the DVR from recording episodes of This Old House so the children didn’t have to see his imitation of Tim The Tool Man Taylor from Home Improvement.
HE SAYS: I wish I had taught her how to check the air pressure in the car’s tires. I wish I had taught her how to change the oil in the car or at least know when it needs to get done.
SHE SAYS: I wish I had taught him how to check the air pressure in the car’s tires. I wish I had taught him how to change the oil in the car or at least know when it needs to get done.
I wish I had encouraged him to start looking under the hood and wondering what’s that noise, where’s that smell coming from, and what does this thingy do? I wish I hadn’t assumed he knew more about cars than he really did.
I also wish I had printed out MapQuest directions to the Goodyear store, just in case. It could cost a fortune in gas if you don’t ensure he knows the way-because he might end up driving around for hours rather than stop and ask directions like a guy I know.
HE SAYS: I wish I had taught her how to prepare for the zombie apocalypse or a natural disaster.
SHE SAYS: I wish I had taught him how to start preparing for a natural disaster and to stop practicing the zombie apocalypse drill with the children.
HE SAYS: I wish I had taught her how to pay the bills. They won’t pay themselves.
SHE SAYS: I wish I had taught him how to pay the bills. I wish I had made sure he understands the priorities: that food, shelter, and the children’s needs come before PlayStation games and new gadgets.
HE SAYS: I wish I had taught her about checking/relighting the pilot light on the stove and/or water heater.
SHE SAYS: I wish I had taught him about checking/relighting the pilot light on the stove and/or water heater. I also wish I had pointed out the stove and listed its many benefits. I wish I could have sold him on the idea that eating microwavable meals every day would lead to irritable bowel syndrome.
HE SAYS: I wish I had told her not to try to deep-fry a frozen turkey. That can be dangerous!
SHE SAYS: I wish I had taught him how to cook something using a method other than deep-frying. I wish he hadn’t discovered deep-fried Twinkies and candy bars at last year’s state fair.
I wish I had left him some recipes for simple, easy-to-follow healthy family dishes. I wish I had pointed him to the Internet where there are plenty of step-by-step instructional videos for healthy recipes.
Whether the deploying servicemember is the husband or the wife, we all have very different ideas about what "preparing" for deployment really means. What would you or your spouse add to our deployment preparation checklist?
Paul and Kristina Smith are the authors of The Ultimate Deployment Guidebook: Insight into the deployed soldier and a guide for the first time deployed.