The Deployment ABCs is a 26-week series where I cover every deployment-related topic, from care packages to homecomings to OPSEC. Tips, tricks and maybe a resource or two to help military spouses navigate their way through the craziness that is a deployment. If there’s a topic you’d like for me to cover or are interested in adding your own thoughts to, send me an email and we’ll chat!
When A deployed for the first time, I had absolutely ZERO frame of reference for what the experience would be like. Deployment was an unknown: a giant black cloud that made my insides tighten up and my heart drop. At that time, I wasn’t terribly close to any other military spouses and was fairly disconnected from the activities happening on base so I essentially had to navigate my way through that first deployment on my own.
But I don’t think that’s what it should be like. Even though each deployment is as unique as each relationship, I think that had I been given certain pieces of advice before A left, my first deployment would have been slightly more manageable and I wouldn’t have had to learn those lessons that hard way.
Advice for a First Deployment
Find your support system and talk to them.
When A is deployed, I lean very heavily on my parents for a lot of things: company, furniture building, reaching that one lightbulb I can’t ever change, you get the idea. If my parents weren’t close by, I would need to find a strong group of friends to be my deployment support system. And then tell them what I needed, which is the hardest part! Earlier this week, I posted 10 ways to support a military spouse and this is a great place to start when it comes to having that conversation.
Say yes to doing things.
People always told me that if I stayed busy, the time would fly by and A would be home before I knew it. And while time doesn’t actually pass any faster and you do know exactly how long it takes for the deployment to end, there is some benefit to staying busy. You don’t miss your loved one any less, but you do have less time to wallow in missing them and that’s huge.
Plus, and I think this is the most important part, you cannot put your life on hold because your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband is deployed. There are still things to do, places to go, people to see, life to live! I know it will be hard: you’ll be tired, stressed and missing them. I’ve been there, given all those same excuses and I’m telling you, it’s so much better if you go out and enjoy yourself. Say yes to doing things!
I’ll touch on this later in the series, but asking questions and getting good solid answers is a great way to feel more prepared for a deployment. Sometimes they aren’t fun topics to discuss, but having the answers before you’re faced with an emergency situation is so much better than the alternative. On the flip side, if you’d prefer not to know too much, then that’s ok too.
For example, I don’t really want to know a lot of details about what A does while he’s deployed so I don’t ask too much about it. What I do want to know is his address while he’s deployed, how to get in touch with him in case of an emergency, where he keeps the bug spray and so on.
Deployment brings a mess of emotions with it.
I’ll touch on some of these emotions and how to deal with them in a few weeks, but this is an important piece of advice for a first deployment. You’ll go through every emotion possible: loneliness, anger, jealousy, frustration, resentment, sadness, fear, worry, elation…the list is never ending. The point is they’re normal and everyone feels different variations of all of them during a deployment. It does not mean you aren’t cut out for this lifestyle or too weak to be a military spouse. It means you’re human.
For the most part, you can deal with all those crazy deployment emotions in the same way you would deal with any emotions life brings up. But if you find that they’re getting out of hand, please talk to someone! Bases have a lot of resources available and if you’re not sure how to find them, make sure you ask your significant other before they deploy.
People mean well.
You know how you have no idea what you’re doing with this whole deployment thing? Well neither does anyone else. A lot of times people think they’re being helpful by asking about this or telling you that, but it’s really the last thing you want to hear at that point in time. If you keep in mind that they truly mean well, you’re far less likely to transfer some of those negative emotions on to them in the moment.
Your first deployment is a learning process, for you and everyone around you, so as much as others offer you understanding, be kind enough to return the favor. It can be completely frustrating when someone tells you that having their husband gone for a week is the same as yours being deployed for 6 months, but taking that out on them isn’t going to solve anything. Just know they’re trying to relate to you and mean well.
What advice would you give to someone facing their first deployment? What do wish someone had told you?