Things That Surprised Me About Deployment

Pregnant me

Pregnant me

I was pregnant with Rachel when the warning order came down about my husband’s deployment. She was 19 months when he left for the deployment, which means we were fortunate enough to have a lot of time to prepare ourselves. Throughout all of this preparation, I couldn’t help but form a mental picture of what it would be like throughout the deployment. It turns out things were very different. I was surprised by many things.

So hard to say good-bye?

Like I said before, this deployment was almost two years in the making before our troops actually left home.  This was great in one aspect.  We got to prepare for this as much as we possibly could and we really made an effort to make the most of each moment we had together.  The downside, however, was that we pretty much had two years full of weird tension and anxiety about the impending deployment.  The soldiers also had to make the best use of their time to be as prepared as possible.  This meant extra long drill weekends, extra weeks of annual training, and countless briefings and meetings.  I have to admit, I was sick of this deployment before it even started! 

Our happy family the Easter before the deployment

Our happy family the Easter before the deployment

When it was finally time to say good-bye the day our soldiers left, I was surprised to find myself handling it very well.  I’m not the type to cry in front of a room full of people, so I never thought I’d have an all-out breakdown, but I did think I’d have a good cry in the car afterward.  That, to my surprise, wasn’t the case.  I was sad that i wouldn’t see him for a year but I honestly felt good that we were getting to the “business end” of this deployment.  I actually went to breakfast with my in-laws right after the troops left and explained my point of view.  I told them that we had spent the past two years preparing for this darned thing while the actual deployment is only a year long.  so as far as I’m concerned, at that point we were 2/3 of the way done!  We were actually in the homestretch!  This realization actually made me energized and ready to tackle the year ahead.

You have to PAY for that?

You wanna make this guy pay for internet service?

You wanna make this guy pay for internet service?

When my hubby finally got settled in his tent, barracks, choo, and where ever else he may have resided throughout the course of his deployment he was able to contact me via the internet.  Not only was I surprised that he had internet available where he lived, but I was amazed that he had to pay for it.  I have to say, I’m still not over that.  My husband pays more for internet access in Iraq than I do here at home….and the connection is about as fast as a 56k (dial up) modem.  Something about that just seems wrong to me.  I once heard that our government spent $3,000 on a hammer.  Even if that isn’t true, you’d think our service members would just be able to sign on for free. 

Timing is everything…

computerI was surprised about how often I was able to talk to my husband.  At one point, we were able to talk every other day.  I’d say we can still average about twice per week with the internet and phone combined.  So this means that’s how often everyone else could talk to their family, right?  Wrong.  I was also surprised to find that there were some spouses who hardly heard from their soldier.  Parents of single soldiers usually heard from their soldier even less.  There were other, however, who were able to talk to their soldier even more than I did!  One of my fellow FRG members actually talks to her husband online every day when their kids come home from school.  It all comes down to scheduling.  Each soldier has a specific job to do and a certain work schedule.  My husband happened to have the night shift, so he was able to talk to me during certain times that the day shift wouldn’t normally be able to.  There is also an 8 to 9 hour difference between us.  So it all really comes down to the timing of everything.

My husband is GI Joe!

Just another day on the job

Just another day on the job

tank

The sign on the tank says something to the extent of "Stay back or you will be shot."

This one sounds silly, I’ll admit.  It was a little naive of me to think of him being tucked away from any danger while he was deployed, but I guess I was in some kind of denial.  I first noticed something was different in his tone while he was on the phone.  He always sounded different if he was on a public phone and if he was on a private line his tone would change when he started talking about things over there.  He admitted to me he had a real problem with Iraqi men when he first got there because he didn’t understand the cultural differences.  He eventually got used to the differences and developed more compassion.  I was surprised to hear my husband talk about people in this way.  I never really understood what he was talking about until he sent me pictures from overseas.  After seeing them, I now understand the unrest in his voice when we talk.  I’ll probably never fully understand what he’s gone through, but I’ve heard from veterans that it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the front lines or not – just being in Iraq creates this anxiety that doesn’t go away until you’re back home.

Leave…

Taken during Hubby's leave

Taken during Hubby's leave

After all of the hoops our soldiers had to jump through to finally get overseas and start working, I never thought they would be able to come home on leave!  I was very surprised that my husband was able to come home for two weeks in the middle of his deployment.  We had talked about this as a possibility, but he always told me that the lowest ranking soldiers get priority so it may not happen.  I was amazed about how well they all pulled this off and it seemed to be a seamless operation.  It was important to remember that not everyone was able to have their soldier home for leave.  This made for a difficult dynamic during certain FRG meetings and events.  We all agreed that it is best not to mention our soldier’s leave unless we were asked about it.

You DON’T want me to contact you?

watchadoinI was very surprised when I heard that families did not want to be contacted by the FRG.  There weren’t many who said this, but it was still a shock to hear that anyone wouldn’t want updates or information about their soldier.  Some were able to get the information elsewhere, like from the soldier themselves if they were in contact frequently.  Others, however, I’m not so sure about and the very thought makes me sad.  Another issue came when we had out of date contact info for our points of contact.  I actually had to make arrangements with the 1SG overseas to have everyone update the information for their point of contact.  It eludes me how someone would not think of this as an important thing.

Stop sending stuff?

holiday-cheerAround Christmas time, the FRG participated in a big effort with the Veterans of Lansingburgh and the Cohoes Veterans.  It was called Operation Holiday Cheer and involved sending care packages to all of the soldiers in our battalion.  I happened to play a very small role in this project but am so proud to have been a part of such a successful operation.  My husband said they all appreciated their packages and they really helped bring everyone some holiday cheer.  We apparently weren’t the only group to think of this, as our soldiers finally had to tell us to stop sending them stuff!  I couldn’t believe it!  So many businesses and organizations had sent our troop stuff that they didn’t know what to do with it all.  This was a big surprise, but it is really nice to know how many people care about our soldiers!

So these are the things that have surprised me throughout the course of the deployment.  With things winding down and our troops returning home in the near future, I’m not sure if there will be many more.  But when you’re married into the military, anything is possible!

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