By Capt. Lisa H. BeumJanuary 25, 2013
Family and friends greeted the Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 503rd Military Police Battalion, 16th MP Brigade as they returned home Jan. 14, from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Separation from loved ones can affect both the Soldiers who are deployed and their Families back home. Successfully managing the time apart can bring about positive, lifelong effects for both parties.
To make it through her first deployment alone, Maggie McLean, spouse of Spc. Joshua McLean, a fueler with the 503rd MP Bn., learned a few tricks to keep her mind off the separation.
"At first it was hard, but it got easier (by) maintaining routines, schedules and keeping myself busy helped," said Maggie.
McLean deployed when his son was only three weeks old and for nine months, Maggie lived as a solo parent. According to Maggie, her Family was close by and was able to provide a lot of support for her, including watching her son so she could socialize with other spouses during functions.
The McLeans used the advances of modern technology to their advantage to stay in touch with each other and to share Family photos. They communicated using Facebook and using flash drives for the videos, mailing them in care packages to her husband.
For some, this deployment was not the first experience with separation. Tracey Gentry, mother of Spc. Derek Gentry, a paralegal with the 503rd MP Bn., understands the hardships of maintaining relationships over long distances. She was raised in an Army Family, married into the Navy and currently has two children in military service.
"Back then, phone calls were few and far between," said Gentry, recalling her husband's deployments during Desert Storm. But now with email and Facebook, it's easier to stay connected, she said.
Family members who have faced a deployment before are sure to offer advice to new Families facing the issue for the first time.
"Continually provide your loved ones with support," said Gentry. "Let them talk to you and keeping the lines of communication open is imperative to maintaining the relationship over the distance," she said.
Deployments are and will, always be part of the military lifestyle, but military Families can often handle such issues with great resiliency, given the right tools and tactics. That is the strength and support of Army Families that makes the Army strong.