Deployment AKA “Destroyment”

(Cartoon by Julie L. Negron)

If you’ve had a spouse deploy overseas, the title of my piece needs no explanation. In fact, you probably laughed in solidarity. The cartoon above may help personify the title for those of you who are unfamiliar with “deployment destroyment” dilemmas. Inevitably when a soldier leaves for deployment, things mysteriously begin to break. It can happen within days, sometimes hours after they’ve left. It’s a conundrum that cannot be explained with reason, but is experienced by everyone whose endured the ebbs and flows of a military deployment. In my corner of the world, this mysterious cycle of unending destruction is known as “deployment destroyment.”

You did your preparation as a family to ensure that you were all set before you separated. The power of attorney was filed, wills were written, cars were serviced, homes inspected, etc. Deployments know no mercy. They don’t care about how much you’ve prepared. It’s just hard hitting reality, and you’ve got to keep up regardless of the vigorous pace.

I pray for grace and patience during these trying times. There are days when you think, “how can I keep doing this for the next 8,9, plus months?!” Everyday presents it's own set of challenges and “destroyment” drama. All you can do is pause for clarity, and tackle each situation as it comes as best as you can.

Never be ashamed to ask for help from your neighbors, family, or friends. People aren’t able to know how to best help, unless you wave the white flag for assistance. I’ve had to learn that lesson the hard way. We were stationed in Savannah, GA several years ago. My oldest daughter was just over a year old, when my husband deployed for the second time. She came down with hand, foot, and mouth disease. (I don’t wish that sickness on any little one, or their poor parent caring for them.) In the world of “toddler STD’s” it’s among the worst. I thought I had to do it all. I felt that asking for help was admitting defeat. I’m pretty stubborn, & pride myself in being independent. My baby was sick for over 18 days! I had to bleach clean toys, sterilize pacifiers between every use, daily wash sheets, & attempt to get normal day to day tasks accomplished. For 18 days! It was a nightmare. My neighbor came over after I was mia for over a week. She knocked on my door, & when I answered in plastic gloves holding a bottle of cleaner…she literally just began to hug me. I broke down in tears instantly. She told me something I’ll never forget. “Never allow yourself to get overwhelmed, when help is just next door.”

Wow. Simple, humbling, and full of truth. Why did I allow myself to go on and on like that for so long? Pride. Stubborn pride. And maybe for you, it’s not a terrible toddler sickness that you’re determined to fight through solo. Whatever “it” is that you need help with so you can maintain your sanity over the next few months, seek out help from people who care about you. I garuntee you they’ve been wanting to help, but don’t know how best to serve you during this hard time.

You’re going to have major “destroyment” drama during the deployment. Just know that going in. Deployment #4 has given me flat tires, dead car batteries, mice, ER visits, a dog with bladder stones, post partum depression, the delivery guy ramming into our brand new hvac unit, etc. I still have 2 months left folks!

How do I cope? I ask for help. I take a few hours to myself weekly, with the amazing help of some friends from church. I have pajama days, where my kids and I just hang out at home and relax because mom gets really stressed out. I cook breakfast for multiple meals in the day, and don’t beat myself up about making frozen dinners. I also allow myself the luxury of a creative outlet through my Etsy shop.

You have to give yourself grace. This is really hard. Deployments are terrible emotional roller coasters. You just want to make sure that when your family exits the ride, you’re all together as a unit and no one got thrown off.

Americans have largely forgotten about our military members and their families. No really. It’s been studied. Check out this recent article by theatlantic.com

Americans don’t like to think about painful sacrifice. We love to block out the meaning of service in our minds. Ask yourself. When was the last time you spoke with a friend or co-worker about our soldiers in Afghanistan? Yea. My point exactly. Yet, there are over 10,000 American soldiers serving there as we speak!

How hard it must be for the service member to watch their family battling at home with little support. It must be torturous. I know it hurts my husband’s heart deeply, to have to watch me deal with all of my deployment “destroyments” from thousand of miles away. If you’re reading this, and you know of a family who has a loved one serving overseas please reach out to them. Perhaps they haven’t learned the tough lesson that it’s ok to ask for help. Just allow yourself to be uncomfortable for 2 minutes, and ask if there’s anything you can be doing to help them out. Offer to bring their mail to their doorstep, mow the lawn, take the dog to the groomer, or whatever it is that you can commit to on a consistent basis. You’ll bless them more than you realize, with your simple acts of service.

Deployments aren’t survived without some sort of emotional, mental, or physical scarring. Both the service member and the family will walk away forever changed because of their experiences. When you thank someone for serving the country, please remember to thank their family as well. Behind every soldier is a structure of supportive family and friends. Let’s unite behind our military families, and really seek out ways to support them however we are able.

Don’t allow a deployment to destroy your life. Gird yourself with a body of armor over the next few months. Battle your way through it, but know you don’t have to fight alone. Only if you choose to. You aren’t a failure or “less than”, because you admit that you need a little help. You’ll be healthier, and happier because you didn’t seek to battle your “destroyments” in solitude. Your family will thank you. Trust me.