Commentary: Spouse support network helps writer cope with deployments
December 4, 2009
BAUMHOLDER, Germany -- Coping with deployment is a necessary part of life for Army spouses who deal with 12-15-month deployments every other year. Being in a foreign country makes it more difficult.
There are ways, however, to cope with these types of deployments.
I have been married to an Army Soldier for almost 12 years. I have survived five deployments (sometimes barely), and with each deployment, I have picked up a few helpful hints from other military wives.
During my latest 2008-2009 deployment of 15 months, I found myself in Baumholder, thousands of miles away from my family and friends. I met two wonderful Army wives, Kelly Dungan and Andi Morris, who banded together with me to make this a successful deployment. Dungan has been married for three years, and this was her first deployment. Morris has been married for three years and this also was her first deployment.
As spouses of deployed Soldiers, and now friends, we began to plan activities for our children. We attended each other's children's birthday parties, and threw birthday parties for each other. This was wonderful because, without our Soldiers present and with no family around, we would not have celebrated our own birthdays.
When I asked my friends how they were influenced by the support network we had built, Andi said, "It helped me not feel so isolated and alone." Kelly added, "Being in the group meant that I had the freedom to have a bad day, because I knew I had friends to back me up and pick up the slack."
We planned game days and overnight sleepovers for our children in order to give each other some much needed alone time to reset mentally. Spouses generally do not realize how much their Soldier intervenes to help with children and the home. When Soldiers deploy their spouses are left to handle all of these things by themselves. With all the extra responsibilities, they need to have time to reflect or just relax.
Pulling from each other's talents was another benefit from being a part of this support network. Kelly taught me to sew with a sewing machine. She also taught the two of us how to decoupage which came in handy for Christmas gifts that we all sent downrange. I shared my knowledge of cake decorating and organized cardio-workout sessions in my living room. Andi introduced us to new books and fun craft ideas. Most likely none of us would have been introduced to all these new things if it weren't for our willingness to accept and learn new things from new people.
We decided to embrace the holidays with the same zest we would have if our husbands were home. This was possible because we celebrated our holidays together. We all participated in the many tasks needed to have a successful joyous holiday. We cooked, shopped, decorated and cleaned up all the mess together. This enriched all of our lives including our husbands' because they knew we were taking care of each other while they were away.
This was my absolute best deployment experience because I was able to count on others beside my family. This opened me up to new experiences, and taught me really wonderful things about people and myself. My suggestion for military spouses would be to network with others in their community in order to live a happy, healthy life.
Kelly's suggestion for coping well with deployments is to "have friends you can count on for help mentally and physically, and be willing to be there for them in return." Andi underscores that idea, adding, "Don't count the days; he will be home soon."
(Tasha Kimbrough wrote this commentary for the Herald Union newspaper)