The Bright Side of Deployment

Military wives are a diverse group of people. Some have kids, some don’t. Some have more money than others. Some work, some don’t. Some are educated, some are not. Some live on-post, some don’t. Some are Republican, some are Democrat. But the one thing that all military wives have in common is this: We hate deployments. No woman wants to be away from her husband for 6, 12, or 18 months every other year. It’s especially hard for the wives who have kids – taking care of small people by yourself is pretty hard (I don’t know this from experience – just observations and talking to other wives). The more kids you have, the harder it is – and God forbid you be pregnant while your spouse is gone. It’s also just downright lonely and if you don’t have kiddos (like me) being the only person in your house for days and weeks on end can drive you up a wall. Sometimes you just have to go to the store and walk around so you don’t feel like the walls are closing in on you. If your spouse deploys and you are new to the area, it’s likely that you haven’t made many friends, so now you’re in a new location with no one you can really turn to for help if you need it. All of these things make deployments extra-lame. But, in an effort to “always look on the bright side of life” (you’re welcome for the Monty Python reference), I have tried to find some good things about deployments. Most of these apply to people without kids because that’s been my experience. Here we go:

1) “War money” – I am borrowing this term from a friend. This is her phrase for all the hazard pay, separation pay, etc that soldiers receive while deployed. I am of the opinion that we don’t pay our troops enough, and no, I’m not just saying that because I married one. If you saw the paychecks, you would think so too. But one good thing about deployments is that this extra money can be used to pay off debt, saved, or used to make large necessary purchases (like a newer car, new mattress, etc) that you might not be able to pull off while your soldier is home. Does this money make up for the fact that your husband is gone? No. Does it make up for the fact that he is in danger of bodily harm every day? No. Does it pay for the missed holidays & birthdays that he doesn’t get to see (especially if you have kids)? No. But it does help, and it’s better than nothing.

2) Sympathy visits – “Oh, poor Gertrude*! Out there at Fort Whatchamacallit all by her lonesome! We should go see her!” Yeah, I’ll say it. I love when people come visit me and I don’t care if they’re doing it out of pity. I have been fortunate this time around to be able to have friends or family come out to see me at least once a month up until this month. That’s pretty impressive considering we are now 7 months into a 12 month deployment and my closest friends and/or family are 10 hours away. My job at Large Retail Store does not give me vacation time, so I can’t really go home to see people. Otherwise, I would have used this time to travel around and see my friends from school and visit my family more often. It definitely makes me feel loved to know that someone has traveled a long way just to spend a few days with little old me, even if they only did it because they know I’m lonely and bored out of my skull.

3) Complete control of the remote – My husband and I don’t generally argue too much about what to watch on TV. He does, however, watch a great deal more TV than I do. When he’s home & awake, the TV is on almost constantly. I prefer to have the TV off if I’m not actively watching (oxymoron?) a show. Also, my husband has no tolerance for my desire to watch Glenn Beck (don’t judge me) and I find Robot Chicken to be THE most idiotic show ever created. But while he’s gone, I can have the TV on when I want and turn it off when I’m not watching it. I can watch my daily dose of rightwing nutjobbery in peace. A small consolation, yes, but I’ll take what I can get.

4) Leg-shaving becomes optional – Again, don’t judge me. I know you hate shaving your legs too. All the nicks and cuts and the in-shower gymnastics to assure that every patch of stubble is removed… ugh. So not worth it if you’re not getting any. Obviously if you wear shorts or skirts in the summer you can’t get away with this as much, but I wear jeans most of the time year-round, so I only have to undergo this ritual if I plan to go to the pool.

5) Automatic renewal of marriage – When you and your spouse are physically separated for up to 15 months at a time (not counting a 2 week R&R), you tend to stop taking each other for granted when he comes home. It’s almost like a default second honeymoon (or third, or fourth, depending on how many times you’ve gone through this). I know this isn’t always the case – it takes some adjusting to get used to living with someone else again, and a lot of the guys who have seen the worst combat situations have a terrible time readjusting to civilian life. But it’s been my experience that my husband and I appreciate each other more and take each other for grated less when he gets home.

Do deployments suck? Absolutely. Do these things make a deployment ok? No. But while they don’t completely ameliorate the loneliness, boredom, and worry that comes with a deployment, they do make it a little bit more bearable. At the very least, it gives you something positive to focus on.

*No, my name is not Gertrude.

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