Most challenges in life become easier with repetition. But when it comes to saying goodbye to my husband as he deploys to combat, I find that it’s never easy. The first time he deployed to Afghanistan, we were newlyweds and I was pregnant with our first child. Somehow, he made it home on R & R just one day prior to the arrival of our son. That miracle meant the world to the both of us, and it was a moment that I know my husband will treasure forever. Only 17 months later, our second son arrived, just months after my husband returned from Ranger School. The moment was again memorable, but also bittersweet as he returned to Afghanistan six weeks later. We were blessed with the arrival of a baby girl in February 2016, and today, my husband is once again in Afghanistan -- his third tour there.
As a military spouse, mother of three small children and a full-time employee, I’ve grown to understand that each deployment brings new obstacles, responsibilities and opportunities. The experience has its good days and bad days, but ultimately, this particular deployment will probably present the greatest challenges. Our sons are now old enough to feel the impacts of not having their father around, and that reality is not easy to witness. It’s never pleasant to see your children feel pain or worry, but it’s especially difficult to observe them wanting their father to be home with them.
I know that we are a resolute family that has the strength and perseverance to get through these difficult deployments, but I would be lying if I said it was easy to care for the family alone. You can read tips on getting through deployments, but the most difficult aspect of the ordeal often lies in the nuances of your own specific experience. Unfortunately, those personal distinctions cannot truly be articulated. I imagine that just about every spouse who endures the deployment experience has moments of fear, sadness, frustration and loneliness.
For me, having close friends and family nearby has been extremely helpful. During our first deployment, I spent much of the year with my Granni, mom and brother in South Carolina. The support and comfort they provided is beyond words. Looking back, I remember just how fortunate I am to have them in my life. For the second deployment, we lived in Clarksville, TN and while I was not close to family this time, I saw first-hand the benefits of being part of a close-knit unit. The Currahee Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division was bound together on both the military and family sides. The spouses who led our family readiness group kept the spouse team involved and united as a team, and we developed our own camaraderie.
This deployment presents new challenges, and one of them involves the proximity to family. Today, my mom is over 1,600 miles away and as anyone with children knows, the idea of traveling long distances with three kids is brutal. Additionally, we are fairly new to the unit and area. I’m still getting to know other military spouses and meeting new people is not always easy, especially when there are personal and professional obligations that must be met on a daily basis.
While the deployments can be difficult, I also know that our marriage and bond are stronger than ever. My husband will return home soon, and the sacrifices that we have both made will be something that we can appreciate for the rest of our lives. Our spouses serve our country during a time of need, in an all-volunteer force. The wives and husbands who care for the homes and families have an equally critical role, and it’s also one that requires personal strength and courage.