Tag Archives: homecoming

The Flip Side of “His” Deployment

3 Jul

Melissa Bennet, Army Wife, and blogger is pictured here with her Soldier and their two beautiful children.

There is no disputing that what Soldiers do on the front lines is hard. Depending on the situation, they may literally be dealing with life and death. I have yet to hear anyone say “being at war isn’t really a big deal”, but I have however, heard people refer to the home front side of deployment as a “vacation.”

I think my OFS (Operation Faithful Support) group facilitator, Jill Bozeman, put it best when she told us to imagine deployment as a coin. There are two sides that make up the coin, just as there are two unique parts of a deployment; downrange and home front. She reiterates that neither is better, but both are necessary. Instead of thinking of my situation as waiting for my husband to get back from deployment I started viewing it as a sort of deployment itself.

My experience will never be the same as his downrange experience. It just won’t. In most ways, I cannot relate to my husband’s experience from the past year at all, but in the same way he cannot relate to my home front experience. So of course the rational thing to do is put my experience in army terms.
Our house may just look like a house to him, but to me, this is where I survived and did what I had to in order to keep things running smoothly. This is my bunker. My troops are my kids. They look to me for guidance to lead them through the confusion of having daddy gone. They look for my steady gaze and my “everything is alright” smile.  We have systems in place to keep the “troops” in line. Above all, I must never lose my head or panic. We have morale boosters in the form of a few select dance songs. We go on missions to the playground and the grocery store. Sometimes they are uneventful, but sometimes we need to call in some backup in the form of a lollipop, band-aid, and an extra shot of espresso. His nights freezing on the mountaintop are my nights with a screaming toddler in the ER. He gets jolted awake by explosions nearby, my heart jumps awake with the hellish scream from my two year old having a nightmare. I have my giant diaper bag with me everywhere (whether I will need it or not), and he carries his gun.

Reading this, you may be thinking “how in the world does a mission through enemy territory compare to a trip to the grocery store?” Well, it doesn’t really. But this is my reality. These are my trials and sometimes I really feel like I might not make it out alive (or my kids for that matter). Having my keys in the correct pocket of the diaper bag is as important to me as the ammo being in the correct spot for him. I learned about the keys from accidentally locking my two kids in the car in a strange city in the middle of a road trip, because, you guessed it, I forgot to put the keys in the diaper bag.  The panic I felt at that moment still gives me nightmares. It may just be a key put it a particular place, but for the past year, the keys being in that spot has saved me time and time again. It has become a necessity in a time where I couldn’t count on much and didn’t know what problems I may have to go through alone. So, “why do the keys have to go there?” They go there because if they don’t, I will lose my mind and you will lose your balls. OKIE?

To an outsider, it may just be a brand of coffee, or a pair of shoes, or a key pocket, but you never know what those little things mean to a deployed-at-home spouse. Still don’t get it? Guys?

What would happen if instead of him coming home at the end of deployment, I went to Afghanistan? Would he let me near the equipment? How much training would I need to go through? What would happen if I tried to change his system? What would he do if I asked “Why do you have to bring your gun with you everywhere”, or tried to convince him to leave it behind? What if I decided to “help out” and re-organize the supplies? It’s no laughing matter. It’s not something you can just walk into and take over. There is serious stuff going on. It is very much the same when the Soldier comes home.

We can value both sides of the deployment coin without making our experiences a competition.  The home front role is also deserving of respect while the Soldiers are away. We are not sliding down rainbows and picking daisies. This is real. This is terrifying. This is surviving.

Melissa Bennett is a talented, and extremely busy Army wife of three years, as well as being a mother of two extraordinary children, ages 1 and 3.   She and her family are currently headed to Vilseck, Germany, after a tough deployment with the 3/1 IBCT of Fort Knox, Ky.  For more about Melissa, visit her blog at www.infantryhomefront.blogspot.com .

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The Dangers of Anticipatory Grief, by Megan Hughes

13 Nov

Megan and Oliver Hughes have a moment together at Walter Reed after Oliver sustained serious injuries in an attack as he served with the 2-2 of the 3/1 last spring in Afghanistan. His unit will be returning in the weeks ahead. (Photo taken by Marsden Media, http://www.marsdenmedia.com)

 

Anticipatory grief is a very common experience for many military spouses.  It is a phenomenon that sometimes starts before the deployment even begins.  Maybe it sets in when the family is sitting down to make wills, fill out SGLI forms, or make a “legacy book” that contains funeral arrangements.  Especially as infantry families, we know the stakes of sending our soldiers to war.

After a deployment (or two… or five…) you would think that we would be used to it and be able to manage it better.  But the truth is, the more they go, the more we think the odds are against our soldier coming home.  The worse the odds, the more efficient the anticipatory grief.  During a deployment with multiple casualties–deaths and severe injuries of friends–the stress can break the strongest among us.  In an effort to come to terms with the unrelenting fear of the doorbell, we detach.  We convince ourselves that we are ok without our soldier.  And when we go too far, we convince ourselves that we don’t really want them back anyway.

This is harsh and it hurts, but it is REAL.  It may not be right and it’s certainly not pretty. It’s real.  The idea of losing them violently is enough to make us check out mentally and emotionally on our own terms.  As though it would somehow not hurt so badly if we have already let them go.

Be wary of what you use to fill the void of your missing soldier.  Some ways are healthy, some ways are not.  Personal development–education, exercise, hobbies, etc–are generally healthy.  Building positive relationships that encourage you to stay faithful and provide opportunities for personal growth are also a good outlet.  Beware of friends that feed your fears, that steal your focus from your longterm goals, or start replacing your relationship with your soldier.

Be careful, ladies.  This last month of deployment is the absolute worst for mental and emotional stability.  Our unit has experienced so much hurt and loss.  This has been a horrible year for us.  I know you are afraid.  I know you have found new strength and independence this year, and you are worried that you will lose it when they come home.  Please hold the faith–remember why you love your husbands, honor your commitments, and don’t let the home fires die.

No amount of anticipatory grief will save you from the devastation of your soldier’s death or injury, but it can absolutely kill your marriage.

Hold strong.  You’re almost there.
 

Megan Hughes, veteran Army spouse of the dashing, U.S. Army NCO, Oliver Hughes, mother of four incredibly resilient and playful children, OFS spouse, and friend to many, has stayed connected to her unit sisters throughout a very tough deployment in which her own Solider returned seriously injured last spring.  Although the clan now resides in San Antonio, focusing on Oliver’s recovery, Megan remains a voice of experience to those awaiting the return of their own Solider in the weeks ahead.  

 

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.

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.