Lessons from a deployment…from the homefront

DEPLOYMENT #1: COMPLETE! (They really do end!)

I’ve read a few of these before and during the deployment so I thought i’d track my perspective on the whole thing.  I hope this helps someone else and gives them a heads up.  A deployment is one of the hardest things you can do and one of the biggest tests to a relationship, but it also brings you closer and forms a bond that most couples can only imagine.

Before Deployment:

Packing lists, dread, tears, anticipation…and fear.  There are lots of different emotions that pop up from the first notice of the deployment up until D-Day (Deployment Day).  I had the urge to take a million photos and spend every waking moment with my soldier.  The closer you get to taking them to that hanger or airport, the more more you really want to just get it started already so you can start the countdown and feel like you’re getting somewhere.  Time seems to be suspended in the anticipation.

Deployment Day:

This was one of the hardest things for me.  NOTHING could have prepared me for the emotions of that day and I am an Army B.R.A.T and little sister.I woke up with such a pit in my stomach and I thought I might have a panic attack if I didn’t take each task/each hour in tiny increments.  Driving up to the hanger, unloading gear, shaking hands with commanding officers, taking pictures with the family and all the while fighting those tears and pushing down those fears.  I will never lose that feeling of his last kiss that would have to carry me 8 1/2 months until R&R.  Letting go of him after that last hug and watching  him walk away for a year was the hardest thing that i’ve done in this life to date.  You wonder if he’ll be different when he comes home, how your relationship will change, how much you’ll be able to talk, and just pray like never before that he’ll come home…unharmed.

Day 1-The first few weeks:

I drove his car from the hanger to my parents’ house in a daze.  My mom, niece and her friend made me a soldier build-a-bear named “Little Ryan” to help with the loneliness while he was gone.  Mom was the biggest help and understood just what all of the emotions are being an Army wife with deployments of her own under her belt.  She was my rock and the only one who truly understood what it was like for me.  I didn’t get much sleep that first night…little did I know that would be the story of my life for the next year.  I came back to an empty apartment in Miami wondering how on earth we’d make it through the next year and feeling like it was Mt. Everest that we had to climb.  The only thing that I was sure of was that he was the one I wanted and I knew that he was well worth the wait.  I walked around like a zombie in a funk for the first few weeks and it still makes me cry to think about.  That was definitely the hardest part.

Halfway Point:

This was when I REALLY felt like we were getting somewhere.  I started to feel more and more positive once we were finally on the downward slope!  By this point I had developed a routine and I knew R&R was getting close.  I stayed motivated in my weight loss and tried to bury myself in work and school to keep my mind off of the deployment.  By this point all of the major holidays were over and I didn’t have to watch everyone post their pictures of their lives going on without us.  Everytime his family or our friends would post things on facebook we just kept talking about how we couldn’t wait for that to be us.  We reminded each other that we could get through this as our sacrifice to keep America free.

R&R

The wait and the anticipation was insane!!!  I can’t even explain the butterflies I felt.  Running to him in that airport, wrapping my arms around his neck and getting that first kiss after almot 9 months was one of the best experiences of my life.  It made every skype “kiss”, even IM conversation, every sleepless night worth it.  I always knew long distance relationships were hard, but nothing compares to that kiss.  At first it was hard to believe he was home, then we got into a little routine and it was so hard to say goodbye again.  It felt like just a tease to have had him back for such a short while only to have to start the process over again.  I DID NOT want to learn how to be away from him again, but that’s the ARMY wife/S-O job.

Post R&R/Pre-Homecoming

For me, this was a time of UNBELIEVABLE stress.  Work was insane, I overloaded myself with online classes, and I was trying to move back to Fayetteville/Ft.Bragg while looking for a job.  It was very stressful, but Ryan was so amazing helping me through everything.  There were some people that made this period even harder with drama, but that’s just a part of life, unfortunately.  Together, as with everything, we got through it.

HOMECOMING!!!!

What can I say?  AMAZING!  The sense of anticipation, relief, pride and accomplishment that the two of us did this together (although his piece was WAY worse) is overwhelming.  I drove up to Green Ramp in his truck and waited “patiently” with his little brother and other fiances/wives down front while we waited for our soldiers to arrive.  They kept announcing where his plane was and how long it would take and I thought the wait would absolutely kill me! Of course, I survived and soon the men and women marched in and were released to us.  It took awhile to find him and his brother promised that he would take pictures as I got that first kiss once again.  It didn’t quite work out the way Ryan and I had planned it, but it was still perfect nonetheless.  Once he had finished his in-processing and we had some time alone to relax, it was amazing to just let everything sink in that he was home.

So, looking back there are some things that I would do differently, but I think we did pretty well.  I heard “advice” from a lot of different sources.  Some were helpful and some people I wanted to punch in the face because they clearly had no clue.  No one knows what it’s like until they have lived it….just as I don’t know what it was like for him.

The best advice that I can give is this: Stay positive as much as possible, but allow yourself to grieve and throw a temper tantrum when you must.  Develop a support group of people you can trust whether they’re fellow S/O’s or empathetic friends who will be there for you.  Pour yourself into creative, fun, exciting care packages.  They get him through things and help to occupy your time and pass the days until homecoming.  Ignore anyone trying to cause drama or tell you they “understand” if they haven’t lived it.  Just smile and nod..some of them really are trying to be helpful and some just want for it to be all about them.

Ryan was amazing and told me all of the time that it was “Our deployment…our R&R” cause I was in it with him.  That really meant so much to me and kept me going that he felt that way about me and us as a team.  I knew that if he could be somewhere so horrible and survive all of that because of any help that I could give him that I had to keep going and be strong for him.  We’re definitely not perfect and we will surely face many trials and tribulations in our relationship but I know that as long as God is at our center we will be just fine.

~Melissa G.W.

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