Every military spouse creates a homecoming to-do list a mile long. Somewhere in between “clean house” and “shave legs”, most of us add “make homecoming sign”. Out come the markers, poster board and patriotic rhymes. But why go through all the trouble of making a sign for such a short period of time? In short, it’s because homecoming signs have so much more meaning than just the words on the poster board.
Logistically speaking homecoming signs are really helpful. Many military homecomings are large affairs with big crowds and it can be hard to spot loved ones amid a sea of people. Having a big sign with your service member’s name on it can help them track you down.
But there is more to homecoming signs than just what meets the eye, especially civilian eyes. To go through a deployment can be heartbreaking, exhausting and more than just a little terrifying. Each day can feel like a really slippery mountain you have to climb solo. Eventually, you’re not sure that you have any mountain climbing left in you.
And then you realize that homecoming day is getting closer and very soon you’ll have someone to help you climb those mountains. So you get excited and want to celebrate. You want to celebrate surviving the nights alone and the days when everything went wrong. You want to celebrate your relationship making it through all that time apart. You want to celebrate flat out being able to hug your spouse again.
So you break out the poster board and the markers. Heck, you may even throw on some puffy paint and glitter glue. You use all the colors and 12 exclamation points. Why? Because you’re dang excited! That sign is part of the celebration, it’s part of surviving deployment. It tells the whole world that your relationship is now deployment strong.
That’s why I will stand in the middle of an airport to greet my husband, holding a sign that tells him (and the world) how happy I am to have him home.
Shortly before A’s first deployment, I had a total meltdown about him leaving. He tried to cheer me up by telling me that everything would be ok and that eventually I would probably look forward to deployment. Fast forward a few years, and it’s still hard for me to imagine a time when that’s true.
But I can honestly say that three-ish deployments later, I actually do look forward to parts of deployments! I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true! And frankly, I’m glad it’s that way. While I never want to look forward to being away from A, I am happy that even in the suckiest of circumstances, I can find the proverbial silver lining.
During deployment, I look forward to…
…the “I am woman, hear me roar” feeling I have after making it through a busy week (or month) at work and still managing to keep both dogs alive and the house standing.
…the first night we all sleep through the night again.
….creating and sending each care package, but none more so than the last one.
…the extra freedom that I have in my life: I watch what I want, eat what I want, go to to bed when I want and so on.
…the extra time I have to spend with family and friends.
…being the center of the dogs’ world and getting all the snuggles.
…not having to shave my legs. Sorry, y’all. That’s real life.
…checking each day off my deployment countdown calendar.
…every message, every phone call and every grainy video chat.
So there you have it. Proof that perhaps A was half right after all. What do you look forward to during deployment?
Warning to my fellow bloggers: the problem with sharing goals on a blog is that you have to totally fess up when you don’t achieve them! Even though I have a bit of time until my husband returns from deployment, I thought it would be fun to check in on how I’m doing!
Deployment Goals Progress
Exercise 4 times a week: Right off the bat, we have a bit of letdown. I had zero consistency in working out before the holidays. And by “zero consistency” I mean that I basically never did it. Ok. I never did it. I really have stepped up my game since the new year, but I can’t give myself full credit for that.
Paint the entryway: This one is a big ol’ check! My mom and I tackled this project a few weekends ago and are going to finish touch-ups this weekend. I can’t wait to share how gorgeous it is with everyone, including A!
Finish unpacking the master bedroom and front bedroom: We’re sitting at about 50% on this one. While the master bedroom is completely unpacked, the front bedroom (AKA the catch all) is not even close to being done. Read: Rachel hasn’t started it at all. I still hope to get it done before homecoming!
DIY project for loft: Success! I shared my t-shirt pillow DIY on Tuesday and am so happy with them!
Start work on my office: Hm. Does pulling together all of your Pinterest inspiration count as “starting” work on something? Because if not, then I don’t think I can say I’ve succeeded in this one. The office is currently functional, but not anywhere close to where I want it to be.
Launch my business and make my first sale: This was by far my biggest deployment goal and I am so happy to say I’ve accomplished this, and then some!
Wow! I have accomplished so much in the past few months! Sharing an update on my deployment goals has totally inspired me to kick butt for the rest of the time my husband is gone and get everything checked off the list.
What goal (big or small) have you accomplished lately?
Deployment. That one word can mean so many things for people. For military families, it’s a way of life, something as inevitable as the change of seasons. For military personnel, it’s just another (very long) day at the office. For the general public, it’s probably a mixture of how movies and the news portray deployments. A lot of people have misconceptions about deployments and as military spouses, we’re often confronted with these deployment myths. I like to share the truth behind these myths whenever I can.
Everything is top secret.
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if I knew where my husband was, I’d be a very rich woman. There is the misconception that everything surrounding a deployment is top secret: departure dates, locations and homecoming dates are all shrouded in mystery, thanks in part to OPSEC. And while some of these things aren’t shared willy nilly around the interwebs, not everything is a super classified spy mission. Sometimes a deployment is in a plain old office building doing paperwork that doesn’t explode after it’s read.
I have always known my husband’s general location, when he’s leaving and coming home as well as some of what he does every day.
People don’t actually get deployed that often anymore.
Ha! Just because the war is no longer the headline on the news every night does not mean deployments have stopped. Every deployment schedule is a bit different, but there are people deploying regularly. I’d say every single day, but that may be a bit of an exaggeration. For example, my husband will deploy annually, likely until the day he retires. Unless everyone wakes up tomorrow and remembers how to get along, deployments will not stop.
Deployments are always to the front lines in war-torn countries.
I would imagine this was only true during WWII. Deployed troops aren’t just in the Middle East or other war-torn countries, although many of them are. It all depends on the branch of service and the service member’s job. I have a friend whose husband spent six months in Germany; another who’s husband is currently in Paris. Both of these were deployments.
Rare phone calls are the only way to communicate.
For some people that may be true, but not for all of us. Depending on where my husband is and what the infrastructure is like, we can Skype, IM and email regularly. This deployment has actually been the worst for communication Gone (for the most part) are the days where letters had to travel halfway across the world in order to know your loved one was doing ok.
You can choose not to deploy.
Hahahahahaha. Excuse me for one second while I compose myself. Ahem. Ok. I’m better now.
People have, in fact, asked me if A gets any say in if and when he deploys. The short answer is no.
The long answer is that I cannot imagine a scenario in which my husband could go into his commander’s office and refuse a deployment. And even if he could, he wouldn’t do it because that means someone else has to be away from their family. Believe me, I’ve wished for this every single day leading up to him leaving, but so far, no dice. If you know of a wonderland where this happens, please tell me so I can get A to transfer there!
(P.S. we don’t really get to pick where we get transferred, either.)
Only soldiers deploy.
I blame Hollywood for this one because they don’t always do the greatest job at distinguishing between branches of service. Yes, soldiers deploy. But so do sailors, Marines, airmen, Guardsmen and so on. And let’s not forget contractors who are technically civilians, but are still deployed overseas.
Military families get used to deployments.
To me, this is the worst of all the deployment myths. It’s also the most untrue. Each deployment is different and we never get used to it the way you would a new haircut or a flickering lightbulb. Each deployment involves heart-wrenching separations and more than a few tears and sleepless nights. I miss my husband just as much during this deployment as I did during our first one. In fact, sometimes I think I miss him more. Him leaving always rocks my world for a period of time and I have to learn to be without him all over again. We don’t get used to deployments.
What does happen is we get better at coping with them. We take advice and learn from other military spouses. We get stronger. We get braver. We get more independent. We make the most of the time we do have together. But we don’t get used to it.
Note: I would like to think I present a fairly positive outlook on this blog, especially when it comes to deployment. But I also think that I would be doing you a disservice if I only shared the cheery side of the military lifestyle. So today, I’m sharing a look at the ugly side of deployment.
It happened about a week before Christmas. A combination of holiday stress, work stress and missing my husband created the perfect storm and before I knew it, I ran smack into the deployment wall. The impact was hard, violent and ugly. So much so in fact, that it put me in a funk for days. I felt exhausted, mentally and emotionally, and more than a little ridiculous for thinking my life was so dramatic when others have it far worse.
The deployment wall is my own personal breaking point; when the scales tip from “holding it all together” to “being a total hot mess”. Usually a combination of factors cause the floodgates to open and I say usually because it’s happened to me every single deployment. And based on what other military spouses have said, it happens to them too!
So what to do when you hit the deployment wall? Each of us is different, but here’s what worked for me.
Talk to someone (or multiple someones) who cares about you.
Honestly just venting can be a huge step in the right direction. I firmly believe that when you lay it all out there, every little thing that’s weighing on you, you’re halfway to feeling better. While I would normally turn to my husband for one of these sessions, I hesitate to do so during deployment. Instead, I opt to talk to a friend or two. They listen, empathize and then don’t harp on it. Of course, if you feel that you need to speak to a professional, please do so!
Cry it out.
This goes along with venting for me, but oftentimes a good cry puts me back on track to being myself. Put on a sad movie or read an emotional book, whatever it takes. Personally, if I’m at that breaking point, I don’t need a whole lot of motivation to cry. But I feel so much better after I do! Granted it may take a day for the puffy eyes to go away, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Do something for you.
With this particular deployment wall, I was completely exhausted and needed to recharge my batteries, so I took an afternoon to do whatever I wanted to do. In this case, it happened to be lay on the sofa and watch cheesy Hallmark movies. Other options could be physical activity, reading a book or listening to music. The key is that I ignored my to-do list, stayed off social media and just let myself be. And oh my heavens, did I feel better the next day.
In order to get past the deployment wall, sometimes you just have to barrel right on through it. So even though I wasn’t feeling 100% myself the next day, I put on my big girl panties, put a smile on my face and went back out into the world. And eventually, I found my energy again.
What do you do when you hit the deployment wall? Share tips or tricks in the January military spouse link-up below!