Lessons Learned From 3 Deployments
No matter how much you and your family prepare for a deployment, you are never quite ready when the day arrives. The last few minutes you spend together will be etched in your memory until your loved one returns home.
I don’t know how my family got through three deployments but by the grace of God, we made it, barely unscathed. The experience has changed us in different ways and has helped us to see each other differently. Here are some valuable lessons we learned:
1. You can’t make up for lost time
No matter how many family vacations we planned, we never could forget the hole that was left in our lives for a year. As we laugh and share memories, we’re reminded that someone wasn’t there to see, feel, or touch that moment. Pictures and videos are nice but nothing is more precious than the real life experience.You can try to include your loved one in the conversation, but then you’ll see the the sadness and the hurt in their eyes that tells you that you can not relive moments in life. That moment had passed and it’s time to move on.
2. Words will be left unspoken
Modern technology made our 3rd deployment easier because we were able to use Skype and video chat. However, in those snippets of conversation, there were things we didn’t share because they seemed insignificant and I didn’t want to worry my husband. You’re concerned about their emotional, mental and physical well-being so you stay quiet even inside you’re screaming from being so overwhelmed.
3. You will have selfish moments
Even though you understand that your loved one is in a more dangerous and unpredictable situation, you have moments when you want someone to tell you everything will be okay. You want to be comforted, consoled and nurtured. Some days I just needed a kind word or a hug to get me through the day and then I remembered that my husband spent each day worrying about whether he will come back home safely.
4. Ask for help
I always was proud of myself for always being self-sufficient and independent. I now realize that what I saw as independence was really foolish pride. Going through a deployment can be lonely and isolating. However, no one will know that you need help, if you don’t reach out. I struggled with asking for help until asking for help was no longer an option but a necessity.
5. Children may be resilient, but are they’re still fragile
My husband missed pivotal years in our older son’s life. He was deployed when our son started kindergarten, and missed 2 of the 3 middle school years. Although my son was fine, he struggled, especially in middle school. I was not so quick to recognize that there was any problems because I believed that he was fine. He finally told me all that he was feeling and thinking during that time. I thought I was giving my son all the support he needed, but I didn’t. You can’t take or granted that your kids are fine just because they don’t show any signs of distress.
6. Becoming a family unit again can be awkward
Everyone has to remember to go back to their respected roles and there can be an imbalance of power. Kids may forget that there is another parental authority and you may forget to share the responsibilities. After being a single parent for such a long time, it can be a challenge to let go of control.
7. Be patient
I think I rushed my husband into assimilating into civilian life. I didn’t allow him time to adjust and I wasn’t always patient with him. He also had to learn to be patient with us. Although we were doing our best to help him transition into our lives and activities, there were times we fell back into our habit of doing things our way without explaining them to him. It’s been 7 months since he’s been home and we’re still learning to be patient with each other.
8. Don’t dismiss PTSD
Some veterans may not recognize or want to admit that they are suffering from PTSD. They are so eager to get back to the normalcy of life, they may deny that they need help and support. It has to be an ongoing conversation and all partied must make the commitment to pay attention to any signs.
9. You’ll always wonder what happened during the deployment
Deployments leave a gaping hole in your relationship because there are things that will never be shared with you and even if you ask questions, you’ll never get an answer. During the deployment,my husband was committed to a mission and was not at liberty to share any details with me.
10. You put things in perspective
As I scrambled to get our home ready for my husband’s return, I didn’t reflect on the families whose loved one was returning home. I didn’t stop to acknowledge that for every soldier that was returning home, there are many who lost their lives. I didn’t think about the children who had lost a parent and would not be able to share any milestones with them. You don’t know what you take for granted until you see that familiar face in uniform walking towards you. It’s then that you finally exhale, not realizing you’ve been holding your breath for so many months.