If we are going to be kind, let it be out of simple generosity, not because we fear guilt or retribution.
- J.M. Coetzee
Even today, with our son out of the Marine Corps, the word brings a tightness to my chest. But deployment is part of life when someone you love is serving in the military. At best, it’s an extended time apart. At worst, it’s time spent wondering how much danger that beloved soldier is experiencing.
Deployment, I’ve also come to know, is a logistical nightmare.
My husband and I didn’t come from a big military family, and we’ve never lived near a military base. For us, there was a big learning curve about all things military. One of those was how modern-day troop deployment works. It turns out there’s no specific date for a deployment. Instead, there’s a window of departure–for full-time military it’s usually a two-week timeframe.
This isn’t due to a lack of military precision; it’s a matter of safety for our troops. So we learned what all military families know. We have to stay flexible when the safety of our soldiers are at stake. It’s not as big a hardship on those whose families live on-base, but for those who aren’t married it can be almost impossible for the ones they love to see them off.
Because of our job situations, my husband and I were able to come spend several days with our son as he waited to leave. Those days were precious, but also stressful since we all wanted to remain positive and upbeat. I didn’t want to send my son off to war worried about me and how I was coping. I knew he needed to be able to focus on the job he had to do and not worry about those he’d left at home. And truthfully, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God had us all cupped in the palm of his hand.
I had to focus on that fact because I was too easily caught up in the what-if trap.
What if this was our last meal together.
What if this was the last picture I took of him.
What if this was the last time I heard him laugh.
Those thoughts and fears are a black hole that threatens to swallow us whole if we don’t fight it. I quickly learned that staying focused on God and keeping busy were the best ways to protect against those fears. So we spent time doing the things we loved to do as a family. We went to the movies, ate at his favorite restaurants, even went bowling.
I know deployments are different for wives–tougher even, in some ways, than for moms and dads. I’d love to hear some of your deployment stories. The funny, the poignant, the things that helped you keep up a brave front and remain focused on God. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Edie Melson is a leading professional in the publishing industry. She also knows what it’s like to send a loved one off to war. Her oldest son went from high school graduation, to Marine Corp boot camp, to Iraq; where he served two tours fighting on the front lines as an infantry Marine. Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle, is Edie’s heart project. Look for her two newest books for military families debuting in 2014: While My Son Serves and While My Husband Serves. You can also connect with Edie on Twitter and Facebook.