By Summer Thornsberry
Deployments are said to be one of those most emotional, life-changing experiences an Army family may face. Whether it’s six months or a year and a half, deployments can affect you mentally, emotionally and interfere with your everyday life. There are ways to prepare, however, that make the transition smoother for you and your family.
Pre-deployment is considered the time frame from the notice of deployment until departure. The best way to relieve feelings of anxiety or stress is to talk about them. Talk to your spouse or a friend or family member. Opening up and explaining your feelings will release stress and emotions that may be bottled up. If the feelings worsen or begin to affect your day to day life, seek help from a professional.
Counting down the days until your loved one departs is never easy and can sometimes be a constant thought in your mind. Cherish the time you have together by going on family outings. Have a picnic at the park or make reservations at your favorite restaurant. Do something you’ve never done before. Take pictures and make memories.
Brittany Van Laeve, 23, married her best friend, Brandon Van Laeve, nearly a year ago. Brandon has been in the Army for five years.
Brittany understood the challenges many Army marriages face but was still shocked when she found out in October 2013 that her husband would be deployed to Kuwait months before their first wedding anniversary. Brittany said it made her feel closer to him and she wanted to reassure him that their bond would remain strong.
“I want to be his inspiration and his rock,” she said. “I want him to know that no matter what, we will be OK. Of course, I get emotional. I get worried and I get scared … but I trust that God will protect him and bring him home to me.”
Brittany said staying strong and keeping a positive attitude was important.
“You have to remember, you’re spouse is also leaving his family and life behind,” she said. “He also needs support and encouragement. Be strong, not only for yourself, but for your partner too.”
The couple also has a child together, a 2-year-old daughter named Oakleigh.
“That’s what hurts the most,” she said, “not being able to explain where daddy is going. She is far too young to understand, and for all she knows, Daddy just isn’t here anymore.”
Brittany, who found out her husband will be deploying again, said she and her daughter can adjust over time.
“Of course, it’s going to be hard, but we know this isn’t forever. This will soon come to an end, and our home will be whole again.”
“During Deployment: Survival Guide”
Although the pre-deployment process can be emotional, other feelings rise shortly after your loved one has departed. Here are a few tips that can help you understand and deal with what you’re feeling:
- Keep a journal. This is a good way to release feelings you don’t feel comfortable talking about and put your mind at ease.
- Get connected with the community through volunteer work or joining a club. Both are good ways to give back and stay involved while keeping your mind free of negative thoughts.
- Learn new skills to occupy spare time you may have. Joining a book club or taking a pottery class can help you focus on a project.
- Stay connected with your spouse or significant other. Communication is the main role in maintaining your relationship during deployment. Write letters, send pictures and answer the phone calls. Many couples have turned to “Skype dates” to keep in contact with their spouse.
- Devote your time to your family. If you have children, a family game night or movie night might lift their spirits. Keep yourself surrounded by the people who love and support you.
- Take time for yourself. Go see a movie. Get your nails done. Exercise. Try to relax and free your mind of anxiety and stress.
“Children coping with deployment”
Different children deal with deployment in different ways. Some children may not show any emotion at all while others put out a desperate cry for help.
Heather Robertson, 21, remembers walking down the hall to lunch in fourth grade crying because she missed her father. Heather’s father, Sgt. Rickey Robertson, served three deployments to Iraq.
Heather was 11 years old when her father first deployed in 2003. She said she grew up quickly as a result.
“My mom worked as a school bus driver, and being the oldest child, I had to help out a lot more and had more responsibilities,” she said. “It was a big change.”
With each deployment, Heather said her responsibilities grew, and she became more rebellious — however, not all children react to deployment this way.
It is important to talk with your child and encourage them to discuss their feelings. When talking, be as open and honest as possible. Make sure your child fully understands what deployment is, where their parent will be and what their parent will be doing. Assure your child that it’s okay to ask questions.
Remind them daily that the deployed parent loves and misses them and is only doing their job.
Keeping the child in communication with the deployed parent is a good idea. Help them write letters, draw pictures to send and include them in phone calls and Skype dates.
If you feel your child is displaying serious separation emotions, contact a mental health professional.
“Support is always there”
The Fort Campbell Family Resource Center can provide assistance for coping with deployment. The family resource center offers a deployment program that provides resources for soldiers and their families.
The program features training workshops, such as Operation R.E.A.D.Y classes, which are monthly and include a membership newsletter to keep you updated.
The resource center is also the meeting place for Family Readiness Groups, also known as FRGs. Consisting of family members, employees, volunteers and soldiers who belong to an Army command. FRGs offer training, support and assistance for any troop member and their family.
Most FRGs meet regularly and some distribute a newsletter. The groups are a great place to develop new friendships with people who understand your situation. For more information, you can contact the Family Resource Center at 270-956-2935 or 1-866-252-9319.