Tag Archives: deployment

An IED by any other name, by Sara Konish

12 Jul

Sara is an Army wife of a 3/1 Soldier, working mom, and grad student, currently reintegrating after a year long deployment.

I was watching the news last night with my Soldier and they were covering the situation in Syria.  The reporter was talking about the rebels making explosive devices to take down the enemy (the government).  They even showed them making the bombs, cooking the explosives, and what the bomb did to a truck when hit.  The reporter called them explosives, but they are IEDs (roadside bombs).  We are sitting there watching these people be justified in blowing someone up.  This is crazy to me!  I started thinking about my husband in Afghanistan and IEDs and what it really means when he says “they got blown up.”

War is a terrible thing!  There is no doubt about that.  But what are some other IEDs in life?

I had lunch with a girlfriend some time back and we talked about our reintegration experience.  She was saying things that sounded just like us.  She was talking about how her husband would be angry and moody.  He would say that it was her and she was the one unhappy.  She was talking about the drinking, more than normal, or at least more than before.  She was talking about not sleeping, or not going to bed together.  I knew exactly what she was talking about.

I remember listening to the ladies who had been through re-deployment  talking about the “honeymoon stage” and about when it wore off and the rubber meets the road.  These were just words to me…I didn’t think of them as anything but a possibility.  When Rick came home, we were awesome; things were great.  I thought, “man, we are awesome, we totally skipped all the stuff they were talking about…we must just be that good!”  Yep, as with most things, I was wrong!

Reintegration is hard.  It is even harder to explain to someone who has never been through it.  Civilian wives do not understand what it is like, and they can’t really imagine it either.  Our neighbor and I talk about the deployment (her husband was deployed like Rick only on a main base, didn’t do firefight missions, and she had regular communication with him via Skype, etc.), however, I do not want to discount their deployment experience; he was deployed and she was without him.

Anyway, we do have some very similar experiences.  For one, the guys left when we were both pregnant, and we had the babies alone (well with our moms).  So, both of our Soldier’s came home to a new baby.  Her sister was asking us about it this weekend.  She said that she just couldn’t imagine it, going through what we went through, alone.  I told her, we didn’t have a choice.  That was what we had to do.

I think about those who say I am so strong.  I don’t personally think so, but ok.  I have to admit, it was terrible.  I hated Rick not being here.  I remember being in the hospital, thinking I was in labor when the nurses were telling me I wasn’t.  I was crying and my mom was comforting me.  I remember saying “I just want Rick!”

So, (as far as) the IEDs in life?  When the guys come back, little things will trigger each of you.  Last weekend we were at a cookout and a wife made this “cardinal sin” comment;  she said “I don’t understand, you spent a year with these guys, why do you need to spend more time with them?”  Well, don’t ever say that to a guy back from deployment!  She lost the fight.

Another thing, I was thinking of putting my daughter’s room into the bigger room (currently the spare guest room).  Rick didn’t like the idea.  I told him it was easier when I was making decisions by myself.  Don’t say that!  It can be very hurtful.

Talking about how much they smoke now, when they didn’t before, is probably not a good idea.  This goes for drinking too, I think, unless it is out of hand, or he is violent [in which case you might need to talk to a chaplain, or a trusted friend].

I know it is going to be just words to someone else, but they are true.  You really have to get to know each other again.  You have to compromise.  You have been two separate people living two lives for a year!  You have NO idea what he went through, even if you think he told you a lot.  And he has NO idea what you went through.  Don’t compare, don’t complain, just listen and work hard to communicate.

Marriage is hard all by itself.  Marriage in the military is that much harder.  Be committed to each other.  Know that there is more than just love, so if you aren’t feeling the love, work harder.  PRAY!  I know that prayer has gotten me through both the deployment and the reintegration.  I know we aren’t perfect, but I know we will be ok and our life will be as great as we make it.

Strength and love to all my military wives out there,

Sara

My name is Sara Konish, I am a wife, mother, full time employee, and graduate student.  My life is crazy, but I love it.  My husband, Rick, is a medic attached to 1-26 IN of 3/1.  He returned from a year long deployment in January 2012.  We have a daughter, Halaina, who is our pride and joy.  You’d never know she was born while he was away because she is a HUGE daddy’s girl.  We live at Fort Knox, KY, where I work as a Civilian Human Resources Specialist for the Army civilians.  I am working toward my masters in HR.  Life is crazy, but that is what makes it worth living. 

For more about Sara, visit her blog at http://mrsdoc.blogspot.com/

Building a foundation of support, even from planks of uncertainty

2 Jul

Jill Bozeman, Founder and Director of Operation Faithful Support, Inc.

I’m going to try to hit as hard as I can to get your attention, without over-dramatizing the home front battle.  Firstly, I’d like you to look over your life and think of all the unexpected hardships you’ve faced, as a child or as an adult.  Then I want you to ask yourself if there was a way you could have planned for any of those hardships in advance?  More than likely the answer is no, because for the most part, you couldn’t have seen them coming.

So now, I want you to imagine those same hardships coming unexpectedly during a deployment, when your main line of support, your partner, is in a combat zone.

If you had nothing to do but take care of your daily duties and responsibilities on the home front, the continued stress of concern for your Solider is enough to make you weak in the knees.  Add to that even one single additional hardship and you have a cocktail for emotional exhaustion.

What happens when Mama is exhausted?

What happens when Mama is depressed?

OFS (Operation Faithful Support) welcomed home an Infantry Brigade last January.   Some of those we sent did not return.  And of those that returned, some did not return the same.  At least one Soldier returned as a single parent due to a home front suicide.  Yes, this Brigade lost a spouse.

She had friends that loved her and supported her, but the truth is that she needed more than what one or two friends who were in the same boat could offer her.   She needed an entire framework of support, because we can’t foresee the struggles and joys the deployment year may hold.  We need a whole community.

I believe a spouse’s number one resource is her (or his) FRG (Family Readiness Group).  I’ve heard enough negative commentary about FRGs  to write a gossip column, but my first-hand experience literally changed my life.  It was so supportive and so empowering that I was inspired to do my part; I started OFS (Operation Faithful Support, Inc.) which as a program, has now supported three unit deployments since, earning lifelong friends and contacts all over the world.

All I had to do was reach back to the hands that were reaching out to me.  Even though the outcome was uncertain, and the rumors about FRGs were compelling, when the hand was extended, I took it!   And I thank God!

For the spouses and families serving on the home front, don’t throw those pamphlets and flyers away.   Don’t delete the emails without engaging the sender.  Answer the phone when you see it is your “Key Caller”, as she is a lifeline extended to you for contact and resources.  Behind the acronyms are real people who live to help, support, and love those belonging to our military communities.  Many times they are spouses, or former service members who are working for those programs, services, and non-profits.  If anyone knows the burden of deployment, it is them.

The only thing that is certain before, during or after deployment is that you are loved, and you will need that love to make it through.

Ask a friend to attend an FRG meeting with you.  And if you don’t have a friend, call your FRG leader and tell her the truth….that you are nervous about coming.  I believe, before you hang up you’ll have found a friend.

Jill Bozeman is a committed, 17 year Army Wife, and the founder and dirctor of Operation Faithful Support, Inc, a grassroots, pro-marriage educational support program for the spouses of deployed service members.  She and her husband, SFC Wade Bozeman, and their two children are stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  For more information about OFS, please visit  www.operationfaithfulsupport.com.

Army Wife Says, Second Deployment R & R Presented Unique Challenges

30 Nov

Aprille Donaldson, Army Wife, mother to Ezra, and Operation Faithful Support Spouse

Aprille Donaldson is an Army wife to her Solider, Russ, a stay-at-home mommy to their bright and active toddler, Ezra, and an Operation Faithful Support spouse.  While Russ is wrapping up his second deployment to Afghanisatn, Aprille commands the Donaldson homefront.  She enjoys Facebook, coffee, sweets, playing the piano, writing music, photography, and hanging out in the military wife blogosphere. She has been actively involved in the 3/1 Operation Faithful Support chapter at Fort Knox.  Check out her blog at  http://www.beautifulinhistime.com/blog.php

Prior to our mid-tour leave, I attended many meetings about RnR and reintegration. They warned that RnR could be a difficult time and that we can’t expect perfection. I heard it, but I didn’t really comprehend it. RnR during our first deployment was amazingly easy and I didn’t think that this time would be any different.

But it only took a few hours into my husband’s time home for me to realize the truth behind the warnings. I didn’t realize quite how much our family had changed until we tried to do something simple like watch a TV show. We used to watch TV with the computer on the coffee table while our baby Ezra would lay or sit quietly next to us. Now TV watching involved a noisy kid crawling all over both of us, messing with the computer, and clamoring for attention. It was a little thing – but it was an adjustment. I had adjusted gradually over the last 8 months but Russ had to adjust on the spot. Something neither of us expected–and it caused stress.

The first few days, Russ was in “go mode”– full speed ahead, take charge. It didn’t matter what it was, it was a task that needed accomplished and he was going to accomplish it. His anxiety levels were high, he was defensive, and he couldn’t relax. As we struggled to adjust to this highly dynamic force in our lives, Russ often felt like he was doing “everything wrong.” I responded by being stressed and anxious, which made Ezra fussy, which made Russ even more stressed. It was a horrible cycle. I kept thinking was “WHY IS THIS SO HARD!?!?!” It took lots of tears before I realized i needed to change my attitude. I was expecting perfection and when things weren’t perfect, I became so fixated on the problems, and trying to fix them, that I was missing just enjoying that Russ was home! I had to let go of my expectations, relax, and just focus on the good things–to set aside the problems and realize that 14 days isn’t enough time to fix everything. I took my hands off and let Russ take over as he saw fit – even if it was different from my way. I focused less on my husband’s anxiety problems and spiritual struggles and more on the love he was lavishing on us.

One of the things that was crucial for us was getting baby-free date time. Every time we had a date we came home feeling so NORMAL and in love. We also got some counseling. For some couples, doing this over RnR might not be the best option – but for us, it was. Having more freedom to talk about things in an environment that felt safe to us helped us so much.

As the two weeks progressed, our time together went from being difficult and stressful to being wonderful, amazing, and just plain old normal… and trust me, if you are feeling normal, you can count your time together as a HUGE success!   

A more detailed account of our mid-tour leave (with pictures) can be found by visiting my blog: http://www.beautifulinhistime.com/blog/-so-how-was-your-rnr-

Introducing: Child Art Cards

7 Nov

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” ~Unknown

It can sometimes slip away from us during deployment that our children are not simply an extention of ourselves.  The lines of distinction can be blurred when you can’t take so much as a shower alone for a year.  Trying to keep children out of your bed, out of your business, out of the bathroom when you need a moment, can make it seem like they are some sort of premordial attachment with whom we share feelings, emotions, food, and even skin, for heaven’s sake!   We must, however, purpose the distinction; we must remind ourselves that while we are missing a husband, they are missing a father.   They have a completely different experience than we spouses.  Being the child of a deployed service member is unique; distinct, and deserving of an independent expression.  

At our last session, Operation Faithful Support invited  the children of 3/1 IBCT, as well as 19th EN BN spouses who volunteer with OFS to express their deployment experience in the form of an art contest, themed “My Military Family”.   We had approximately 75 unique submissions, each an heartfelt expression of the child’s love for their family, honoring their Solider-Daddy.  It was tough, but the board of directors grueled over the submissions with heart in hand.  We selected 12 designs to be featured in an assorted package of message cards, to be made available for purchase in support of the Operation Faithful Support program.  All profits will go directly to serving spouses and their families.  The winners are:  Jocelynn Collard, 4 year old daughter of Sgt. Christopher Collard; River Horn, 4 year old daughter of Sgt. Joshua Horn; Dakota Harmon, 5 year old daughter of Spc. Milan Harmon; Kendall Edwards, 5 year old son of Spc. Dwayne Edwards; Kalani Whitney, 5 year old son of Sgt. Marlen Whitney;  Haily Ruckman, 9 year old daughter of Ssg. Aaron Ruckman;  Lyndsey Shillito,  7 year old daughter of 1Sgt. Ty Shillito, Raina Frausto, 7 year old daughter of Spc. William Frausto;   Clara Lucas, 8 year old daughter of Cpt. Steve Lucas, Mia Santos, 6 year old daugther of  Ssg. Ulysses Santos;  Mason Sullivan, 5 year old son of Sgt. Shawn Sullivan; Allanah Morgan 6 year old daughter of Spc. Aaron Morgan.     

We congratulate our winners, and invite you to support our organization by purchasing a set, or several sets for yourself or as gifts.  Each card has the unique design expression of a service member’s child, with the child’s name, age, and service member being honored on the back of the card.  Some designs were titled by the child, with sentiments such as, “Missing Daddy is Sad”, “Daddy Comin’ Home for R&R”, and “The Army is in My Heart”.  

Visit our online store at  www.operationfaithfulsupport.com to order yours today. 

Trauma-Strong?

26 Oct

Jill Bozeman, 17 year veteran Army spouse, and Founder/National Director of Operation Faithful Support, Inc.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.  ~Author Unknown

I recently attended a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) conference where I had the privilege of hearing the CG (Commanding General) of Fort Knox, LTG Benjamin Freakley, address family, friends and Soldiers regarding these homecoming issues.  He introduced the entire conference by exposing us to a concept called “Post Traumatic Stress Growth”, which reframes traumatic events as an opportunity for greater strength.  And of course, this got me thinking about marriages, and the inevitable stresses that arise due to deployment and reintegration.

I’ve heard many times, from those who should know, that the obstacles in marriage will make you or break you.  And a marriage that is never tried is never strengthened.  Much like the caterpillar, with hopes of becoming a butterfly, struggles painfully to emerge from the cocoon, it is the struggle itself that strengthens his wings for flight.

No struggle, no flight.

And the man who prematurely cuts the butterfly from his struggle cripples him for life.

There is, of course, no need for us to look for trouble in order to grow, as each day has trouble of its own.   However, rather than seeing challenges as an ending, consider it an opportunity to grow the roots of your marriage so deep, that eventually the strongest storm can’t break you!

Jill Bozeman is a committed, 17 year Army Wife, and the founder and dirctor of Operation Faithful Support, Inc, a grassroots, pro-marriage educational support program for the spouses of deployed service members.  She and her husband, SFC Wade Bozeman, and their two children are stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  For more information about OFS, please visit  www.operationfaithfulsupport.com.

“I HATE Army Wives…”, She Said

24 Oct

We just moved into housing on Fort Knox, when my neighbor crossed the street headed in my direction.  “Welcome to the neighborhood”, she said with a smile.  I graciously received her warm welcome.  Her greeting lost all steam when she added…”I HATE Army Wives, so please tell me you aren’t one of those types.”   I’m not sure what my response was, but I have no doubt my face reflected my shock!  There was more talk…  I seem to recall some negative comments regarding FRGs (Family Readiness Groups) and wives who wear their husband’s rank, but at this point, I must have been looking at her like she had two heads.   

Oddly enough, my neighbor and I became quick friends.  I worked hard to prove her stereotype wrong, and she worked hard to make sure I knew I was nothing more than an exception to the standard-issue “Army Wife”.   

Either way, I enjoyed the two years I lived across the street from her.  She was the kind of spouse that would come and check on you the day after “deployment send off”, and that in itself was a compassionate comfort I don’t remember getting when I lived outside the military community.  She also happened to be the kind of neighbor that would walk right into your house and plop down on the couch without an invite!  Not everyone would consider that an endearing quality, but I did.  It comforted me that someone considered me “familiar”.  

Being a Military Spouse means putting down quick roots.  We don’t necessarily have time to “know” a person before we find ourselves in a situation where we rely on them like family.    But much like our biological family, we don’t choose them, they simply “happen”.  It is up to us to decide whether we will endure their shortcomings in order to embrace the gift God has given to us in them…..or slam the door in their face.     

No one is perfect, and likewise, no one can singly fill the hole our deployed spouse has left.  But, without community, deployment can be like treading water in lead ankle weights.  Be wise in choosing friends; you cannot confide in everyone, nor can one person watch all four of your kiddos at the drop of a hat.  Cut others some slack.  Enjoy them for whom and what they are in this season of your life, making sure to give people permission to blow it now and then.  Hey!  After all, we are all doing our best to just make it through!

The Spouse’s Deployment Motto

12 Oct

Jill Bozeman, 17 year veteran Army Spouse, and founder/national director of Operation Faithful Support, Inc.

If you can grow apart, then you can also grow back together!

The pre-deployment jitters are laden with questions:  “What if he changes? What if I change? What if we fall out of love?”   Well, I’m about to say something that no one else may tell you.  And you may not like it at first, but in the end, you will be so thankful I was honest.

Here is the plain truth:  he will change.  And for that matter, you will change!  And if you fall out of love, which is entirely possible if your love is based upon feelings, then you will just have to work at getting that love back on track!  As a spouse of sixteen years, I can tell you this:  if our being together were based upon feeling the love, we’d have been divorced a hundred times over!

Feelings are NOT reliable.  They are as flaky as Lindsey Lohan.   Making decisons based upon feelings is like asking Ms. Lohan for career counseling.  Eeek!!!

It is possible that his return may not be as dreamily romantic as you had thought it was going to be.  Do not despair!  My husband and I were still banging out the nuts and bolts of reintegration at the 10 month mark.  This, by the way, is FAR past the expiration date of the typical 30-90 day “norm”.  (As far as “normal” goes….anything that is abnormal, is normal.)

After the first couple of days or weeks (which, I admit, can be “dreamily romantic”), the new wears off and the reintegration begins.   Some seem to reintegrate seamlessly, but keep your eye steady and don’t compare.  “Others” are not you.  And things aren’t always what they seem.

Reintegration is “restoration to a unified state”.  Sometimes the restoration process takes time.  And work.  We have to work at “growing back together”.   You and your husband put a lot of time and effort into building the relationship before the deployment.  Rebuilding takes a similar investment, only this time, it is powered by commitment rather than those euphoric hormones that attracted us.

In the end, military marriages are unique.  And just because someone has coined the phrase “the new normal” does not mean our lives are normal at all.  And that is okay.  Be willing to stand strong for your Military Marriage.  It’s worth it.  You are worth it, and your family is also worth it!!!

Jill Bozeman is a committed, 17 year Army Wife, and the founder and dirctor of Operation Faithful Support, Inc, a grassroots, pro-marriage educational support program for the spouses of deployed service members.  She and her husband, SFC Wade Bozeman, and their two children are stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky.  For more information about OFS, please visit  www.operationfaithfulsupport.com.