Losing Deployment Poker

We've all endured military spouse "deployment poker" tournaments. You know the conversation . .  .

You: "My husband's deployed. It's been tough lately."

Other person: "Oh yeah? I remember when my husband deployed for four years and I gave birth to triplets alone in a field, and he didn't meet them until last month."

You: "Oh my GOSH! That sounds so hard!"

Congratulations, you've just lost your first round of deployment poker.

The oh-but-it-could-be-so-much-worse-type rhetoric isn't comforting when it's your turn to receive comfort. It leaves you feeling a little jaded and hollow, and well, not as resilient as you'd hoped.

We all know a family or friend who's deployed for longer or under more dangerous circumstances. Maybe your service member volunteered to go. Maybe she had no choice.

It doesn't matter. You deserve a little understanding and compassion in your moments of weakness.

To all those spouses whose service members are facing their first deployment in this ever-changing, never-ending war: your feelings are 100 percent valid. Just because a war is "winding down" doesn't mean you may feel any less afraid or alone.

To all those spouses whose service members are experiencing their upteenth tour of duty: your feelings are 100% valid, too. Just because you know how all this "works" doesn't mean you don't get to have bad days too. Or keep up the strong exterior.

To the spouses who've had the knock at the door: we can never, ever, hope to understand boundlessness of your pain or the magnitude of your sacrifice for all of us. We admire your strength and marvel at your ability to cope. Yet, we're all terrified that we'll have to walk in your shoes, too.

War is Hell. We all fervently pray that Hell never comes for any of us.

So all that social pressure you're feeling to "keep a stiff upper lip" and "put on a happy face" and "suck it up?" Those feelings are real. You aren't alone. There is both spoken and unspoken pressure as a military spouse community to "get it together" and keep it that way amidst the swirl of change and the rumble of war drums.

So, to those spouses who always win the deployment poker tournament?

I stand before you humbled that you can stand gritty and determined before The Great Unknown Thing. Invite it in for coffee and have a stare down contest.

Me? I'll be hiding in my closet with a bucket of Blue Bell Cookies & Cream ice cream. Feelings taste better on a spoon, no?

There's no shortage of advice and resources out there to handle all aspects of pre-deployment, deployment and reintegration. I won't list them here.

I simply want you to know your feelings are valid. And that you're never alone. In fact, you're probably doing better than you think.

Sarah writes about life in the US Air Force, raising a Jewish family and interfaith marraige. She lives in Tucson with her husband, son and daughter. Her idea of perfection is walking her dog, reading in a hammock and eating breakfast tacos. She has a BA in Political Science and Chinese and a Masters in Public Affairs.


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