The deployment begins, and you get into a routine. You have good deployment days and bad deployment days. Then, you hit a slump. Still, so many months left to go. Still, so many more deployment days to get through. Then, you get a homecoming date.
If you have been through a deployment before, you know this date will change. At the same time, you know that simply having a date is a good sign. It means things are wrapping up. It means you are getting close to the end of a deployment.
Having that date means that there is probably a unit ready to replace your spouse’s unit. It means that boxes from the desert will start to appear on your doorstep and it means that you will be told to no longer send any mail.
All these signs together are good ones that tell you, the military spouse, that your deployment days are coming to an end.
And then, somehow, someway, you have made it, and you have one week left of the madness. One week left of sleeping alone. One week left of being both mom and dad to your children.
That last week of deployment isn’t going to be easy. Even though you are at the end, even though you can now countdown in hours, that last week will drive you crazy.
You are almost there. You are almost done but not quite. You are almost to the end of a deployment.
You still have to wait. Through flight changes, weather scares, and anything else that might get in your way.
Your mind will play tricks on you, worried that things will change and they will get extended. You worry about what things will be like when they get back home. You wonder how your children will do and what your spouse will think of the changes you have made during the time they have been away.
That last week will be exhausting. You might not be able to sleep. You might not even want to eat. You will clean your home and then clean it again, forgetting that your spouse isn’t going to care if it passes a white glove test.
You will want time to fly and yet feel like you are not going to be ready for the day they come home.
That last week is a weird time as you run around getting everything done and also counting down the seconds until you see your spouse again.
You will be asking a friend to come with you to take photos or booking a photographer. You will be finalizing your homecoming outfit. You will be wondering what to have on hand for that first meal together or wonder if it would be best to stop for food on the way home from picking them up.
You will reflect on the months they were away. On the memories, you made without them. On the friendships, you developed. You will start to think about how your friendships will in fact change once your spouses are back home, especially if one of you is supposed to PCS sometimes soon after homecoming.
You will look at your children and remember how little they were when their mom or dad left.
You will wonder what life will be like parenting in person again and what fun things your family can do together now, as a full family.
You will look back and see how strong you have been. You will see the months that went by, the long deployment road you walked along, sometimes crawled along to get yourself to the finish line.
You might be worried that your spouse will come home different. That your already rocky marriage might not survive reintegration. You are not sure if you will go through with that divorce or seek the counseling you think that you need.
For some, that last week of deployment is a terrifying time when you are just not sure what life will be like, and that scares you. The truth is, reintegration can be the hardest part of a deployment, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. You have changed, they have changed, and now you need to work together to get started on the post-deployment chapter of your lives.
Deployments are a part of military life. They start, then they end, and all the time in between is you figuring out how to get through them, even if that is taking it one day at a time.
You can find more deployment posts here!