Take a lesson from deployments: build strong Family bonds
March 24, 2011
Fort Drum: Home of the 10th Mountain Division. Fort Drum: The Army's Best Kept Secret. Fort Drum: Home of one of the most-deployed divisions in the Army.
When I found out my Soldier and I were relocating to Fort Drum, I groaned, knowing that, like the change of the seasons, it was inevitable he would deploy soon after we settled into the North Country. For the past month, we spent our precious weekend hours completing numerous household tasks, or as I like to call them, "honey, do before you leave" lists.
In addition to that, our lives were abuzz with driving hours to visit friends and Family Members, which put a lot of wear and tear on our vehicle, causing it to go in for some very expensive maintenance a week before he was set to take off. Only then did we stop running around, take a few deep breaths, give the truck a break and realize our time together was limited.
This gave me time to notice the little things I normally miss, because, like my Soldier, they were scheduled to leave for the next 12 months.
I began to hold onto hugs a little longer, and admire how sharp he looked in his ACUs when he left for work each morning. Because I was so caught up in taking mental pictures, I forgot to nag him to take out the trash and feed the dogs. I left food-affixed dishes in the sink overnight and let laundry pile up past my normal tolerance level, because I realized I would have a year to tackle all the dirty dishes and laundry my little obsessive-compulsive heart desired.
Subconsciously, we began spending extra time playing fetch with the dogs, eating more dinners in the dining room instead of at the coffee table, and conversations became longer and held deeper meaning.
During our last night together, I suggested we do something we wouldn't normally do, so we settled on an old-fashioned game of "Go Fish," using real, wax-covered cardboard cards.
As I sat there, continuously losing every hand to my soon-to-be absent Soldier, I wondered why, after all this time, was this the first time we played a card game together. And, like the commercials for "Bing," my mind began rolling, and I was soon pondering a long, somewhat-related string of questions.
I questioned why more couples didn't live each day as if they wouldn't see their significant other for a year. And if couples could learn to "go fish" more often, would they be able to build stronger bonds' And why is it that we only begin to appreciate something when we know it's about to go away' Is it because mindlessly we have ingrained the age-old adage "you don't know what you have until it's gone," in our heads' Or, is it because we remember a time before that someone or something and don't want to revisit the past'
While I recognize I have no way of knowing the answers to the first few questions, I do believe I can turn those questions into advice for others: don't wait.
It's simple and we all subconsciously know to "carpe diem," but sometimes someone just has to spell it out. Hug a little longer and make each embrace count. Put the laptop down and pick up a deck of cards. And take a few mental pictures from time to time.
I'm sure there are other Families who have undergone multiple deployments and long ago discovered to appreciate their Soldier as much as possible. And because of the 10th Mountain Division's high deployment rate, I wouldn't doubt that most of these Families are living right here in our very own community.
So, I'd like to suggest a new slogan for consideration - Fort Drum: Home of the strongest Family bonds in the Army.
And although I'm still in the listening-to-sad-country-music-and-eating-cold-cereal-for-dinner (and every other meal) phase, I know I will eventually snap out of it. And when I do, I'll still have the faint feeling of that last hug around my shoulders, a deck of cards I can shuffle from time to time and a few mental photos stored in a safe place until my Soldier comes home