My husband, Andre, deployed for a year at the beginning of July, and we just passed the 4-month mark. It’s funny how time has a way of standing still and racing by all at once. This is especially true during a deployment and even more so with a 2.5-year-old (Joel) and a 5-year-old (Raina).
Andre and I met late into his Army career – he’s been on six tours total, but it’s only my second time going through this with him. I like to say, “I’m a marinating soldier’s wife.” But after this deployment, I’m confident I’ll fall into the “seasoned” category.
During my first deployment, we lived in Indiana. Andre deployed when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Raina. He was gone most of her first year. I remind Raina of this on hard “missing daddy” days. I tell her she’s already a pro at it, and that usually cracks a little smile on her face.
Before Andre left this time, I created daily, weekly, and monthly countdowns for the kids. At their ages anything before or after “yesterday,” “today,” and “tomorrow” is sort of fuzzy. For the daily countdown, they get to cross off each day before bedtime. The weekly countdown is a paper chain and they tear one chain link off every Monday. I pinned it up on the wall in the shape of a rainbow, and we love watching it shrink!
The monthly countdown includes a surprise event for each month that we make it through. Those special activities range from a weekend hotel stay to a trip to Center Grove Orchard, which we visited in October. We also have a deployment “bucket list” that we are aiming to complete, and it includes things like learning the military alphabet.
I was born and raised in Des Moines but was gone for 11 years prior to my husband being stationed here. To help balance the uncertainty of military life, I stay home with the kids. During this deployment, we also have the support of my parents who live nearby. Being close to them has been so wonderful.
How to support military families
Support makes all the difference. We also have little communities like the families from preschool, our church, the gym, and friends and neighbors reaching out. These relationships are critical, because it’s so easy to become isolated during a deployment. Human connection is essential – we aren’t meant to do life alone.
Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do, but I’m getting better at it. I’m also getting better at accepting help from others when they offer. The best help is truly the help that someone won’t let you refuse. For example, my thoughtful neighbor will prepare a meal doubling the recipe, and then text me saying she has extra and wants to share it with us. Not having to think about cooking dinner is one of the best gifts for anyone. Words of encouragement go a long way, too.
Every now and then people say to me, “I don’t know how you do it, I could never do it.” The truth is – yes you could. We were made to survive, and that’s pretty much what the kids and I are doing these days. There are a lot of hard days, but there are also many great days. During the hard ones, we take them one hour at a time. I constantly tell myself, “You’ve survived 100% of your worst days, and you were made to do hard things.”
We talk to Andre almost every day, and we try to FaceTime 2-3 days per week. Now that Daylight Savings Time has ended, he is 9 hours ahead (instead of 8 hours) which gives a little more wiggle room in the kids’ schedule to have FaceTime chats. It also means that I now get to talk with him before I go to bed which I really love. I’m so grateful for the technology we have today. Fifty years ago, families said goodbye to their soldiers and only heard from them via snail mail, if at all.
When Andre left, I told the kids that whenever they see an American Flag it’s like Daddy is with us, so we spend a lot of time looking for flags. It’s one of our coping mechanisms and a fun activity for us. The holidays are going to be tough without him, but they will also make time pass a little more quickly. We miss him so much and are incredibly proud of him. We remind him every day how much we love him and that we can’t wait for him to Come Home Safe!
Annie Thompson, a native Des Moines gal, is the wife of a soldier whom she adores and is currently a stay-at-home mother of two. She dabbles in homeschooling, loves to research, and once upon a time worked in healthcare. Annie holds a black belt in Mixed Martial Arts, has a love/hate relationship with running, and is a devoted OrangeTheory Fitness fanatic. She is an eclectic mix and smiling is her favorite!
Annie writes a blog, Chronicles of a Military Wife, about military life from the perspective of a spouse and mother. It’s a journey and it takes a village.