Tag Archives: Reintegration

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/

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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 .

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-

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.