Family life changes when Soldiers deploy
November 7, 2008
SCHWEINFURT, Germany - The upcoming deployment of the 172nd Infantry Brigade will affect not only Soldiers but also spouses and children, many of whom will ask themselves whether they should return stateside for a long visit or stay overseas.
The decision is based on what is best for each individual family - but is not an easy choice to make, especially for those facing their first deployment. Many here have already been through numerous deployments and shared their experiences.
"I encourage ... women to stay," said Trisha Swienton, whose husband will soon deploy for the third time. "I know it's great to go see your family ... but this becomes your family. These ladies really stick together and make strong bonds and they understand the situation (perhaps) better than your family."
In addition to community formed with those who remained, Carolyn Hudson, a family member with the 9th Engineer Battalion, said the ease in connecting with her husband downrange because of the free Military Postal System and the time zone of only two hours difference between Germany and Iraq also helped out. She had originally planned to leave once her husband departed and when her commitments were completed with the Family Readiness Group.
Hudson noted her reasons for initially wanting to leave Schweinfurt: "I wanted someone to take care of me; to help with the kids; to not be the sole one responsible for running a household. I never did end up going back. I really am thankful I stayed because I think there are a lot of benefits."
Carmelita Taylor, a 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment spouse, had no intention in staying in Germany while her husband deployed for a mission in 2006-07.
"I tried to EROD home ... because we were supposed to (move) anyway right when he got back ... but (I was) told no," Taylor said, referring to the Early Return of Dependents.
"I didn't want to come to Schweinfurt and start all over," she admitted, "I hated it at first ... but actually it was probably the best thing that happened. I got used to the community. The best thing I did was keep busy. It really made time fly."
Taylor spent her time mailing party packages downrange for the holidays and ensuring that Soldiers in her husband's unit received a care package for their birthdays.
Volunteering at the elementary school and traveling with her children also enriched her time.
Theresa Smith, also with the 1st Sqdn, 91st CAV, was new living overseas as well and also tried to EROD, to no avail.
Looking back, she is glad for staying, but "it was challenging at times." Smith's daughter was in first grade when her father left; she and her mom learned the value of the Schweinfurt community.
"The school was really good with the deployment," Smith said. "I think it also really helps you as a mom and a wife to stand by yourself."
The Smiths also used many free garrison family and morale, welfare and recreation programs offered during the deployment to enjoy day-to-day life.
Both Taylor and Smith visited family in the States for a short time but chose to remain in Schweinfurt during the majority of their husbands' 15-month deployment.
Julie Correira, a family member of the 630th Military Police Company, remembered how nervous she was at first about the community's support system support, especially as she was a new arrival. However, she found satisfaction in volunteering and discovered the benefits offered to deployment families.
"It's so important for the kids to have someone just like them," Correira said, explaining how her children attended school and participated in sports and activities while being around other kids and adults who understand what it's like missing a loved one.
For her as a parent, "volunteering is key to finding friends and keeping busy," and a deployment care card gave her free child care when needed.
"You need to find something to get involved with," agreed Joe Garcia, who chose to remain in Germany during his wife's deployment as he wanted to keep the family together. For him, it was his kindergarten son that sustained him while she was gone.
"I gave up a nice job to come over here, (but) I'd do it again if the situation arose," Garcia said.
He believes the decision to stay or go should be heavily influenced by the strength of the each couples' marriage.
"If you have a rocky relationship and things aren't going well," Garcia said, "maybe you should stay here to try to work those things out whatever they may be. Because the easier it is to run home ... or that security blanket, whatever that may be, the easier it is to hang it up."
Lauren Meyer, with the 1st Sqdn, 91st CAV, felt closer to her husband by staying here during the deployment, especially with the frequent updates and easy access to information provided by the rear detachment organization.
Sara Russell, a family member of 9th EN Bn, echoed those sentiments: "Here, I have direct access to community resources, I am tied into the unit, getting current and accurate information, and I have my friends to rely on."
Obviously, various factors make up the equation of whether families decide to stay or go. People must ask what is best for themselves, their marriage and their children.
"It's a big decision ... carefully weigh all your options," Hudson said. A lot of times it can sound very comforting to go home, but ... you can miss a lot of neat things ... with people that are in the same stage of life, same situation, that add to the deployment and make it more than just checking days off the calendar, but that it is in some ways a good experience for us."