Hi! This is MaryAnne from ThePunkRockMom filling in for HeWearsCombatBoots as she reunites with her hubby as he comes home from his first deployment! I am so happy he's finally coming home and I wish them the best reunion ever! I know it will be super special, cause first deployment reunions always are…
But sometimes they aren't. (And this is not an indication that Heather's won't be- they are an amazing family and I know they are so excited to be back together.)
And that what this post is about, the other side of first deployments.
How many different emotions that you feel and the emotions of those first reunions- where you are so psyched to see your loved one, but you are scared, too. The psyched-ness is easy to understand, the scared part isn't. It isn't easy to understand for people that aren't involved with the military, and it's not easy to understand even when you're the wife waiting on the tarmac for your husband to step off of that plane and back into your life.
It's weird, actually.
At first anyway.
I want to tell you a little story, one that may seem to go off topic, but I promise it relates! So bear with me. Plus it has lots of drama. So it won't be that hard to stick around for it. :) (And this little story is no indication of how first reunions or deployments go, just my first experience, so I wanted to just put that out there.)
So here goes. I was married before. I have an ex-husband. :O Shocker! I'll save you the unsavory bits. (But if you're like me, I know you'd want to hear them anyway- but in the interest of my sanity, I'll leave them out… for now. :))
Anyway, the important part about that fact is that he was in the military when we were married as well.
I remember the first time he deployed very well. I was 19. We had just gotten married and had moved to Tampa, where he was stationed. After we had been there for a few months, he got his first deployment assignment. It was to a relatively safe place, but I was scared- scared that I may never see him again, scared to have to be a grown up all by myself, scared of this new territory with no one to talk to, no one with which I shared a common ground.
I remember waking up that day, feeling unsettled and nervous. I went with him to his work to say goodbye. When I got there, I expected to say goodbye with a kiss and a hug and see him run off with his duffle bag, jumping into a plane as it taxied down the runway and take off into the air, me waving as the wind blew my hair and dress askew (yeah, I know, I watch too many movies :)). It was scary, but felt almost romantic. Like old school somehow.
My perception was wrong. It was so the opposite. We got there, and I found out I could hang out in their 'lounge' and wait while they readied the plane to leave. I was excited about this and glad to have a little extra time with him. I thought. But as soon as he said "I have to go help them, I'll be right back," I didn't see him except for a glimpse here or there for 3 or more hours. So I sat there in the lounge. Alone. Watching some show on cable. There was another wife in the room, but she never acknowledged my presence. Whatevs.
The he came in and said it was time to go- I freaked. I was ready when we pulled up, I had prepared myself for that as well as I could. But this extra time totally screwed me. All of that preparedness was essentially thrown out of the window as soon as they said I could stay. I thought I would have a longer, more meaningful goodbye. All I got was a rushed hug and kiss and left standing in the lounge- still trying to take in what just happened. I ran out, trying to be able to see the plane take off. This was another round of waiting. He had forgotten something. He ran back to get that something (a pair of sunglasses I think) and then he was off again, up the air stairs, into the plane, gone from me for a long time. Again, I stood waiting, the plane finally took off, and I walked back to my car and got in. I sat there for a long time, trying to understand what was in front of me. Months with out a touch. Months without a hug, a kiss. Months of feeling this exact same way. Lost. Lonely. Scared.
I drove home and tried to prepare myself for months of him not walking through the door. It wasn't easy. I couldn't do it. Everything seemed to slow down. Hours felt like days. I thought to myself, that if this kept up, if it got worse, I may just go crazy. And he wasn't even going to be gone that long in terms of military deployments- 4 or 5 months, tops. (I don't know how you other military moms/ wives do it.) But I knew I couldn't stay there long. I needed support.
So I decided to go home and stayed there for a good bit of the time he was gone. I'm from SC, and really hand't traveled much in my life- never been too far past the Mississippi River. And I'd always been close to my family. We were tight. But I was excited for the new adventure of moving to a big city. But then he got deployed. I was alone without a soul to even call a friend, and he was a bajillion miles away. When I was home in SC I had a blast with my friends and was fortunate to be able to chat with him online when we could. It made things a lot easier to be around family and friends. Then, as the date of his return approached, I headed back to Tampa. Reluctantly.
Not because I didn't want to see him, but because I knew how painfully bad I was going to miss home and my friends again. How I felt so out of place there in that big city. All alone. Leaving my family and friends behind again to go back to a place that I didn't know, and that didn't know me.
And I was scared.
And I was worried about our reunion. I know, it seems silly. Like, what's to be worried about? He's your husband and he's coming home! Be happy! Be excited! What's wrong with you?
I mean, I was those things. But what was going to happen next? Would things automatically fall back in to place? Would it be like he never left? When I saw him again, would it be like he just left yesterday? What if it was weird?
And you know what? It was. It was really weird. He acted like he barely knew me. I went to him with open arms and he barely hugged me back. He talked to his buddies the whole time and basically pretended I wasn't there. Which I didn't hold against him, I mean I didn't know what to expect, and I took it as it came.
We went home and things were weird. We didn't know how to act around each other. He acted like I was some acquaintance he didn't really know. It was a long time before things got back to normal. And a very short time before things then went down hill. But that's a very different story for a very different day.
So what am I trying to say? That all deployments end with a disconnect from families, friends and spouses? No. Not at all. In fact, when I started dating my now husband, our reunions couldn't have been better- full of joy and excitement. Full of love and completeness. They were wonderful. Each time he went away, it was harder for each of us, but our reunions were better and better.
In the good sense, reunions are like a honeymoon- all fresh faced and full of love. All kinds of warm fuzzies.
But you know what? I love my husband more than life, but when he goes away, I still feel those same old familiar feelings. Lost. Alone. Lonely.
I worry it won't be the same. But every time he comes home, those worries are put to rest. But those first few hugs can be awkward and weird. Those first nights home can take some getting used to. I mean, you still love each other, but you've both gotten used to doing things the way you want them done, sleeping with the whole bed to yourself, and in the case of the deployed one- not doing any sort of diaper duty.
So why am I writing this? To totally contradict myself? To make it seem that every time a person deploys that the result is a total disconnect?
The reason I write this is to give you an understanding of what it's like for your/ a loved one to leave, what it can be like for them to come back.
That if you're a military spouse, it's ok to have these feelings. It doesn't mean that things will be weird when you are reunited or that things will go down hill. It's totally normal to feel this way. And if there is a disconnect, that's normal too. It will get better, it will feel 'right' again.
What my problem was the first time around is that I didn't have any support, at least any support that knew what I was going through. I didn't know and wasn't informed of (by that oh-so-wonderful ex hubby that should have told me all of the support stuff before he left, but never did, the whole time we were married) all the kinds of support that the military and other organizations offer on top of the support from your friends and family.
If you or someone you know has a loved one overseas and you feel worried about your reunion or you feel you have no support, please visit these websites/ write down this information:
*http://www.militaryonesource.com/ (These people are awesome. Like if you are all alone and your spouse is deployed and you get sick, they'll find someone to take care of your kids if you need to go to the hospital. Awesome!)
*Contact your spouse's First Sergeant or the Family Readiness Center and ask for the information of the Key Spouse. They are there to support you!
*Or just throw '(service branch) family support' into Google, and there will be lots of resources there for you as well! :)
There is support out there for you. A long time ago I didn't know this support existed. But it did, and it does. Please contact them and they will help you through your anxieties.
So reunions are joyful, but they can also be rough. So if you know someone out there who is waiting for a loved one to return from a deployment, please give them any kind of support you can- whether it be doing a load of laundry, a night of babysitting, a hug, or a shoulder to lean or cry on. It is all awesome. And it will all be greatly appreciated.
Being married to the military can be tough. Deployments, whether they be the 1st or 50th, are super hard. No matter how close your family is. And no matter how much support you have. They are hard. But support is key. And it means the world to whoever you are supporting.
So go support your mili friends. And if you're waiting for your loved ones return, know that I am here to support you too. And wishing you an awesome reunion. Full of love and fresh faces. And a brief break from diaper duty.