When Deployments Don’t Get Any Easier
I couldn’t believe he was leaving again. Just two weeks before we had thought that he wasn’t going to go. Now he was and it was time to say goodbye. This time, he was leaving very early in the morning. We were all there, my three boys and I. We took some photos and said goodbye. Knowing that when he returned they would all be a little bigger. They would be doing new things and we would have made a lot of memories together without him.
I knew this deployment wasn’t going to be our longest deployment. This deployment was my 4th one and I should know what to do at this point. We had been through this before, for longer, with younger children. My children were older now. They were 8, 6 and 2. Not old enough to be left on their own but old enough to not feel like I was surrounded by very small children. Two of them were in school. That would make things easier right?
The reality was, deployments never got easier for me.
They just didn’t. They got shorter and in some ways harder. I never went through an “easy” deployment, who has? But if I had to pick I would have chosen my 2nd deployment. Even though it was a year-long and only because of what I was able to do during that deployment that I was not able to do the others.
As I started our 4th deployment, I knew that this one would break me. It would challenge me in ways that our 15-month deployment never did. Was this because it was our 4th deployment in 7 years? Was it because we thought he wasn’t going to deploy? Was it because I knew he was ETSing soon after and this was going to be the last one? Was it because my son had been diagnosed with Asperger’s and that was a challenge for us even when my husband was home? Was it because I wasn’t close to anyone else going through the deployment? Was it because we lived off-post?
You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out why some parts of military life more difficult than others.
I am not sure why that 4th deployment was the worst. You would think that after that many deployments I would be “good” at going through them. I even heard comments such as, “Well at least you have been through a deployment before” and I would shake my head yes while inside I was screaming that I didn’t think I could go through another deployment again. I just didn’t.
I somehow made my way to that deployment finish line but doing so was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. The time he was gone felt so very long. I ended up having to see a counselor in order to get through the time my husband was gone.
It’s been a few years since my husband got home from that deployment and I still can’t think about that time without a feeling of dread.
If I have learned one thing about deployments it is this, they are all different.
Even if they are the same length and to the same location. Your kids will be different ages, you will be surrounded by different people and your own emotions might be in a different place each and every time. Some deployments will be easier than others but you might not know that going in.
The best thing to do is the plan for each deployment like this deployment is going to be your hardest. Equip yourself with tools to help you through the deployment. Find people who can support you and never assume the time he is away is going to be smooth sailing. You might end up surprised at how you handle things. You never really know what is going to set you off and you never really know what will make the deployment easier until the countdown begins. All you can do is prepare as much as possible and know that everyone struggles with deployments, although in different ways.
Have deployments gotten easier for you? Have you experienced a difficult deployment even though that deployment was not your first? What have you done to get through them?