Handling deployments from the home front

Handling deployments from the home front

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Okinawa

According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘deployment’ means a “placement or arrangement in position for a particular use or purpose.” For many in the military community, it brings a mixed sense of pride, duty, fear, sadness and an overwhelming sense of the unknown. As our loved ones head to unfamiliar corners for deployment, those on the home front can face daunting challenges. Between demands of daily life, appointments, bills and, of course, good ole Murphy’s Law rearing its ugly head at the most inopportune moments, it can feel like an unrelenting force. I reached out to some of my seasoned spouse friends to share their experiences and tips on how they handle deployments.

Get organized.
Even if your family ends up with short-notice deployment orders, getting organized from the beginning can help ease certain stressors. If your ID cards or passports are expiring soon or during the deployment timeframe, make an appointment to get those taken care of as soon as you can. Often, the servicemember or sponsor will need to be present to get them renewed. If you can’t get it done beforehand, make sure you’ve got the proper forms signed and notarized giving you permission to get it done on their behalf.

Power of Attorneys are vital.
Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, it’s always good to ensure you’ve got a power of attorney. “Always get power of attorney situated. You may need several ‘very’ specific ones, not just a general one,” says Annette S. She also suggests calling financial institutions to ensure the spouse can make payments on behalf of the deployed member if they aren’t already a joint account holder. Krista V. agrees, “Powers of attorney may not work for everything, so you may need to call companies for their specific version for account permissions.”

Establish a communication plan.
With the advent of technology comes the ability to keep in touch a little easier. Establishing a communication plan or schedule helps keep things more routine. However, according to Stephanie S., things may not always work out the way they should. “Don’t freak out or get upset (on either side) if one of you misses a date! We can’t always predict if/when something will come up which prevents one party from being there.”

In addition, now is the time to keep the lines of communication open. “Be open and honest with your wants and needs,” mentions Cassandra T. “Find the common ground that makes it work. Know your boundaries and the level of need-to-know.” Which brings me to my next piece of advice.

Be mindful of OPSEC.
Operation security, or OPSEC, has become a buzz word. However, during deployments it becomes imperative. Be mindful of what you share, and what your friends and extended family members share. “The most important thing is that I make the family keep the info close to the vest until the calendar is completed,” says Laura H.

Keep your own schedule, keep busy and set goals.
As much as it feels as though the earth has shifted, life keeps moving when your spouse leaves. If you’ve got some gaps in your day, try to stay busy. “Try to work, volunteer, take day trips, visit family … get out of the house!” says Brittany G. The more occupied you keep yourself, the faster the time seems to go. “I definitely agree with finding goals for yourself,” adds Mikayla W. “Make a new hobby or focus on one if you haven’t been able to. And set return goals. Plan a small trip or a nice date with your spouse post-deployment. It was something to look forward to and talk about.”

Establish a network and use your resources.
Establishing a network of like-minded friends or spouses going through a similar situation can help. Many organizations such as Army Community Services and Airman and Family Readiness Centers offer programs and events designed specifically to help those with a deployed family member. However, sometimes you may not want or need the check-ins, which is absolutely okay, too. “If you don’t want/need a key spouse or someone checking on you, don’t be afraid to say so. But be sure you have a way to receive information about your deployed spouse and that you have someone available in case of emergency,” says Kim G.

Diane L. suggests using extra financial support (such as family separation pay) to hire some assistance. “Use family separation pay to hire help, especially if you work. Hire someone to mow the lawn, walk the dog or take the kids to activities. You don’t have to do everything.”

Do what’s best and right for your family.
When you’re used to being the host or hostess with the most, it can be hard to put yourself first. But in this situation, you’ve got to take the advice of Ice Cube and check yourself before you wreck yourself. “Making it about my daughter and me was the best thing I could do,” says Victoria A. “Depend on yourself and rely on your instincts to tell you what is right.”

Keep a sense of humor, especially when Murphy’s Law shows up.
Without a doubt, things will inevitably go south. When they do, try to find the humor in the situation if you can. “Everything that can go wrong, will and will bring along company! But you’ve got it, don’t let it faze you,” says Krista V. Diane L. also advises keeping the number of housing maintenance or a friendly fix-it person close by. “Have the name of a handyman and plumber — if you don’t, you will definitely need them.”

As many spouses said, although deployments can be daunting and overwhelming, just remember you’re in it together.

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