Exactly how old are you? I am 26 years old.
How long have you been married? Currently been married for 3 years. However, 2 of the 3 years, my husband was deployed (either in Iraq or Afghanistan for 11+ months). But believe me that doesn’t average out to 1 year of marriage, if anything we’ve had enough character development within those three years to feel like its already been 10–in a good way.
How many times has your husband deployed? Refer to the previous question. His first deployment was to Iraq just a couple of months after we were first married. Then while he was still in Iraq, we were told we’d be moving to Fort Drum (in Up Upstate New York–try a 30 minute drive to Canada) to inevitably prepare for a second deployment. Usually soldiers are given around 12 months at home before they deploy again. We were given about 10 before he was gone for another year. This deployment we knew would also be significantly more dangerous in that he was going to Afghanistan and their location was rather remote and unestablished. Blaine left when I was about 12 or 14 weeks pregnant with Wesley.
What do you do to get through a year-long deployment? I don’t believe there is one answer for this alone. My experience, and I say “my experience” because this is all I have to go from. I can try to implement other people’s advice or try to duplicate their experience but it is impossible so I don’t even consider it. Alas, my experience has proven that the busier I can make myself, the less stressful the deployment. You cannot change the fact that it is an entire year that you have ahead of yourself on that first day you watch them leave and say “good-bye”. You cannot dwell on that. It’s not really been my idea to even cross off each day as some say it is “one day closer”. I’d rather take bigger chunks of the cookie than that. I can take a sigh of relief when I turn the calendar to the next month. Though you have no choice but to take it one day at a time, every month that goes by, feels like one more under the belt. The first deployment I had two part time jobs: a waitress and a barista. I was also finishing up school and taking the last couple of classes necessary to graduate. Good thing was a couple of them were studio classes so I would spend longer than necessary in the printmaking studio, go on the weekends, etc, just so that I could continue to feel a sense of accomplishment. It would also give me some “me” time. Time to reflect, create, and work through any emotions that I was festering in my own brain. I had also moved in with my sister, bro-in-law, and their three children. Waking up in the middle of the night to my nephew’s “will you take me down to mommy’s room” and other smiling occasions was probably some of the other best medicine I could have asked for during that time. On the flip side, getting used to seeing their tiny smiles daily was also a huge struggle to leave when the time came to reunite with my husband.
This deployment I had a full time job working as a customer service representative with AT&T. In the time between deployments we also adopted a dog, and I was pregnant. I would find excuses to take our dog, Dirk on unusually long walks in the park. Sometimes even twice a day. Also, the full time job took up a lot of my daytime and weekends. Which only left me the mornings and evenings to really ponder much of anything. I stayed here in Upstate New York without family and while that sounds terribly lonely I got through it. Some days were rougher than others but all-in-all I think it was the best decision for me. Halfway through my pregnancy I left my position to be able to relax and prepare our nursery and such. In between the time I left my job and we had Wesley I moved us to a different apartment, travelled back home to Indiana a couple of times and eventually began to nest. Once I came back from Indiana to really settle in and make our apartment a home there were definitely long lonely days but at the same time I told myself I would never have peace and quiet like this until I am retired, so I tried my best to revel in it. I was a dog walking machine, Target browsing, fool. I made all of Wesley’s bedding and tried other crafts along the way. I spent time with friends and awaited my husband’s mid-tour leave where we would become parents and our lives would change for the better. Once Wesley was born and Blaine returned to Afghanistan I went back to Indiana to celebrate the winter holidays and get some extra hands to help me transform into the mother I am at this point. I think any mother out there can tell you that children just make the days go by fast. You are always trying to get one step ahead of yourself so that you can provide in the best way for your little one. So that is what helped me stay busy with the remainder of the time he was deployed.
Some things I will say are good places to start. Make yourself a list of goals. Make a few short term and a few long term. For example my short term goals would be simple: show up to OB/GYN appointments 15 minutes ahead of time. Take Dirk for a walk at least twice a day, rain or shine. Check out farmer’s market downtown. Then long term goals would be something like: Get Wesley’s bedding made. Re-organize blog design. Think of all of the things you can accomplish in one year’s time. What better time to get them accomplished then when you are solo and trying to find ways to use up the minutes in the day. Some people go on crazy diet/fitness routines, some people buy houses, or start businesses. These are things I would suggest doing. Or let’s say you aren’t quite adventurous and you are a homebody. Try something like: I will check out a local craft show, I will check out fill-in-the-blank. When all else fails, journal. It is the best therapy you can ask for and that in combination with prayer gets you quite far. Don’t be afraid to tell people your loved one is deployed, but at the same time please do not exploit it. There are people with conditions far worse than having a loved one deployed, and remember that you might not be one of the blessed family’s to have your loved one return. So try as best as you can to make every conversation with that person a positive one. DO NOT WATCH ARMY WIVES on lifetime channel, or the new series Coming Home, they will only annoy, depress, and frustrate you. Really you should probably avoid all and any programming on Lifetime.
Where did you get your dog? We adopted him shortly after moving to Upstate New York. We found him at an SPCA shelter and though it took some persuasion, I agreed to adopt him. Dirk is relatively 1 1/2 years old and has already had some ups and downs in his short life. I would say that dogs are not for every family, and just like any addition to a family it requires a lot of sacrifice and money but I don’t think we’d change it. We were worried about how he’d do once Wesley was born, but we made sure to set boundaries and continue to keep them enforced. Wesley already recognizes Dirk as a member of his family and they both seem to enjoy one another’s company.
How do you feel about being called an “Army wife”? I don’t really have a whole lot of emotion attached to this title, and here’s why. I am a wife of someone who volunteered to be a member of our Army. I myself did not choose to enlist. My husband has a job just like any one else’s husband. It requires training, dedication, time away from home–more so than most–morals, ethics, etc. He works as hard as he possibly can at his job. Like any man of service his number one requirement from me, is to come safe and sound so we can continue our lives together. Am I proud of my husband? More than he could possibly know. Do I sometimes wish he had a different job? More times than I’d like to admit. Would I dare to change anything about his job? No. Only because I understand I do not hold that sort of power, and know that if it weren’t him doing what he does, it would be someone else. We often talk about how things could have been or currently would be different if. But to me, that life of wondering what if’s is not a life to live. We try as hard as we can to just have fun. He mellows me out when I am being too rigid and I him. The long and short being, yes, I am proud to be an Army wife, but not in the sense that most Army wives might be. I do not have sticker on my car explaining to you that “half of my heart, was or is in Afghanistan/Iraq”. I do want pity and sympathy from you when I have to explain why my husband is not currently in the states. I know that when Blaine has been deployed he is working just as hard there as I am here. If I sat and moaped during his deployment and hoped he were here, I would be doing both of us a disservice. Those days and nights are tough being apart, but there are probably more difficult for him than I could ever possibly imagine. I am blessed to have welcomed my soldier home twice now, and I realize not every family gets that chance.