Hope

hope that no matter what difficulties arise in family, health, or finances, a family can survive it and get to the other side. Don't ask me to answer 'how' in one response, rather it's an evolving idea. Solutions present themselves as you go along the path. As you seek the thing it is you want to achieve, so will an idea come to you. I do not attribute it to a god or a religion, though I may have one or both of those. This is life. Hope. Live with me,... 

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Entries in deployment (3)

Tuesday
Mar042014

His Everything Else

 

I sat in the sunshine staring at my future, wrapping my mind into equations that lead to my ability to move on someday towards stability, possibly, maybe even an enjoyable purpose. He walked up, I didn’t notice him coming towards me until he was already at my right side, so close in proximity. He stood over me, bending in my direction to interrupt. I looked up at him as he said, ”Have you ever considered joining the service or the National Guard or Reserves to help pay for college?” All that was really in my line of sight was the pattern of his DCU's, his unit badge and name….
I just said, “I’m a caregiver to a veteran, actually, who served in Iraq in 2003”
He says “uh, wow” straightening up a bit, “thank you for doing that, wow, um, I didn’t expect you to say that at all.”
…And still distracted by his uniform, I found I wasn’t sitting in Austin anymore, since he began talking really. I was standing in Ft. Campbell, dropping off by husband the last time I saw him in his DCU's, saying goodbye before he boarded his flight to Iraq, and all I could see was the 101st badge and all I wanted to do was reach my hand back into 2003 and hold my husband in his strength, and hold on forever and never let him go…not to war, not to Iraq, not out of my arms.
That exam I was preparing for in 10 minutes, that future goal I was trying to work on, melted in my lap as the Sgt. walked away. “Well, here’s my card in case you have a friend you can give it to.” Really? I tried to put my mind back on what I was doing, but all I could do was hope for something impossible, a changed past.

Now I have a test to take as tears flow from my eyes and I wish so much for the stronger days. The numbers I attempted to put on that paper came out as confused and disorganized as my emotions were, and had been for the previous 8 days. Ability escaped me, my mind and heart were flooded.

Later I had the opportunity to be alone with my husband in our kitchen, explaining the story of the recruiter. This magical place, the kitchen, the same place we danced our goodbye dance on his way to war to U2’s “In a Little While," and he replies to me sweetly: “I’m home now.”
I melt in his arms, crying, releasing so much fear and heartbreak from that event in 2003 where he departed and I knew he’d come back different. Except after 11 years, I experienced what that “different” was in more ways than I wanted to, and he’d been so far away all this time. Though his body returned his “everything else” wasn’t back,.. and then I realized that barely today, he did just get home. He was right, he’s home now. And I’m so happy he finally got here. I was lost without him…

Monday
Sep262011

Her Story

The Distraction of Army Service


As we enjoyed our third daughter growing at home, news surrounded the post 9-11 scene in America. Rumors of wars and threats emanating from Iraq were increasing. It was then our family took a holiday trip back to Texas, in January of 2003. We visited Austin where my parents had recently moved. We visited the Alamo in San Antonio and enjoyed the company of relatives that were normally so far away. Having been on our own in Tennessee was marvelous, seeing close family intermittently was more appropriate and workable for us. We were growing together as a new little family so much more, and it felt healthy. This little jaunt back to Texas had come about suddenly, it was good timing according to my husband's unit command. How naive I was not to realize why. During our long drive back home he got a call on our cell phone. It was "the" call. Friends from his unit on the other end confirmed, as soon as my husband returned, they were to prepare for deployment. I don't know why as an infantryman's wife I was stunned into disbelief. I looked at him as we drove, full of fear and sadness. It was our first deployment as a couple, well at all. It was HIS first combat deployment. This was not the back forty or a training exercise, this was it, the Middle East. I had a couple more weeks left with him, and they were not as he or I would have imagined they would be. No. Pre-deployment is a horrible thing. Couples go through a cycle that is not gratifying at all...what I imagined would be some surreal time of staring longingly into each other's eyes and cherishing every moment (laugh out loud) was not so...

"Stage 1. Pre-deployment

The onset of this stage begins with the warning order for deployment. This stage ends when the Soldier actually departs from home station.

This stage is characterized alternately by denial and anticipation of loss. As the departure date gets closer, spouses often ask: "You don't really have to go, do you?" Eventually, the increased field training, preparation, and long hours away from home herald the extended separation that is to come. Soldiers energetically talk more and more about the upcoming mission and their unit. This "bonding" to fellow Soldiers is essential to unit cohesion that is necessary for a safe and successful deployment. Yet, it also creates an increasing sense of emotional and physical distance for military spouses. In their frustration, many spouses complain: "I wish you were gone already." It is as if their loved ones are already "psychologically deployed." 

As the reality of the deployment finally sinks in, the Soldier and Family try to get their affairs in order. Long "honey-do" lists are generated dealing with all manner of issues. At the same time, many couples strive for increased intimacy. Plans are made for the "best" Christmas, the "perfect" vacation, or the "most" romantic anniversary. In contrast, there may be some ambivalence about sexual relations: "this is it for a year, but I do not want to be that close." Fears about fidelity or marital integrity are raised or may go unspoken. Other frequently voiced concerns may include: "How will the children handle the separation? Can I cope without him/her? Will my marriage survive?" In this very busy and tumultuous time, resolving all these issues, completing the multitude of tasks or fulfilling high expectations often falls short. 

A common occurrence, just prior to deployment, is for Soldiers and their spouses to have a significant argument. For younger couples, especially those experiencing an extended separation for the first time, such an argument can take on "catastrophic" proportions. Fears that the relationship is over can lead to tremendous anxiety for both Soldier and spouse. In retrospect, these arguments are most likely caused by the stress of the pending separation. From a psychological perspective, it is easier to be angry than confront the pain and loss of saying goodbye.

However, the impact of unresolved Family concerns can have potentially devastating consequences. From a command perspective, a worried, preoccupied Soldier is easily distracted and unable to focus on essential tasks during the critical movement of heavy military equipment. In the worst-case scenario, this can lead to a serious accident or the development of a Soldier stress casualty who is mission ineffective. On the home front, significant spousal distress interferes with completing basic routines, concentrating at work, and attending to the needs of children. At worst, this can exacerbate children's fears that the parents are unable to adequately care for them or even that the Soldier will not return. Adverse reactions by children can include inconsolable crying, apathy, tantrums, and other regressive behaviors. In response, a downward spiral can develop in which both Soldier and spouse become even more upset at the prospect of separating."

My husband was home and I wanted it to stay that way. I realize we were in the wrong profession for that to be a realistic expectation, but I was an idealist. I had hoped after he joined it would be the years our country wasn't going to get into any war. Rewind to the year he enlisted, February 2001. Three months after his jump training ended and our arrival to the first duty station, September 11 occurred. The beginning of my little idealistic bubble, bursting. Back to January 2003, three kids and a close call on a scary delivery, I was preparing to say goodbye indefinitely to the man who endured with me and the love of my life. 

 

*This entry is a continuation from the complete story of our daughter's life. See the entire 'Her Story' here

 

Pre-Deployment information from: 'The Emotional Cycle of Deployment: A Military Family Perspective' By:  LTC Simon H. Pincus, USA, MC, COL Robert House, USAR, MC, LTC Joseph Christenson, USA, MC, and CAPT Lawrence E. Adler, MC, USNR-R

Saturday
Aug072010

Go Away!

People leave. Be it your significant other on a business trip, vacation, or soldier on deployment. Currently we have spent a summer in constant departures,... two months worth of living elsewhere five days out of every week. I cannot say this has gone well, at all. Previous to this new arrangement, the husband and I had both been home all of the time while he job searched. The first couple of weeks away were a little welcome relief to the stress of job loss and constant togetherness. But with family, I cannot agree that this is a great way to live. Even with just a marriage, actually. I almost want to say people who work in fields that take them away consistently should not be married or have kids. So why is it SO difficult? There are real psychological things happening when a spouse has to go away. I learned this in the military, but it is so across the board to varying degrees. There are definite emotional stages each person goes through,..

Stage 1- Anticipation of Departure: In this stage, spouses may alternately feel denial and anticipation of loss. As reality sinks in, tempers may flare as couples attempt to take care of all the items on a family pre-departure checklist, while striving to make time for “memorable” moments. Stage 1 may begin again before a couple or family has even had time to renegotiate a shared vision of who they are after the changes from the last departure.

Stage 2 – Detachment and Withdrawal: In this stage,people become more and more psychologically prepared for departure, focusing on the where they are going and what they need to do. But this may create emotional distance within the marriage. Sadness and anger occur as couples attempt to protect themselves from the hurt of separation. As this stage happens more often and more frequently, marital problems may escalate. When a husband or wife must repeatedly create emotional “distance”, they may gradually shut down their emotions. It may seem easier to just feel “numb” rather than sad, but the lack of emotional connection to your spouse can lead to difficulties in a marriage.

Stage 3- Emotional Disorganization: With back to back departures, one might think that this stage of adjusting to new responsibilities and being alone would get easier. Although a spouse may be familiar with the routine, (s)he may also be experiencing “burn-out” and fatigue from the last departure, and feel overwhelmed at starting this stage again.

Stage 4- Recovery and Stabilization: Here spouses realize they are fundamentally resilient and able to cope with the departure. They develop increased confidence and a positive outlook. With back to back departures, however, spouses may find it hard to muster the emotional strength required, but many resources are available to provide needed support.

Stage 5- Anticipation of Return: This is generally a happy and hectic time spent preparing for the return. Spouses, children and parents need to talk about realistic plans and expectations for the return and reunion.

Stage 6 – Return Adjustment and Renegotiation: Couples and families must reset their expectations and renegotiate their roles during this stage. The key to successful adjustment and renegotiation is open communication.

Stage 7- Reintegration and Stabilization: This stage can take up to 6 months as the couple and family stabilize their relationships anew.


As noted is stage 6 and 7, this is granted you are dealing with emotionally healthy individuals. Throw ptsd , TBI, or depression into the mix of the spouses and return, reintegration, readjustment, and stabilization can all take much longer. Ultimately they will hit more roadblocks and have increased marital arguments. Doesn't this sound like so much fun! We have been experiencing this every single week over the duration of the summer. I think the key to getting through this is understanding that the emotions each person is experiencing is a normal reaction to an abnormal and unique situation. My spouse who has been doing the leaving not only has the stress of living away, but also of his disability and the loss of his resources to manage them. Counseling is no longer possible while he is in a different city. Medicines are not as readily available to refill as he figures out how to manage his new schedule and where to access prescriptions from VA out-of-town. We also have no definite end in sight, as another week keeps getting added on unexpectedly. After reading these stages, they sound so 'simple' just spelled out on paper like this. Experiencing them, however, is wreaking havoc on all of the relationships in the family. I say there are ways to manage it with understanding, educating yourselves on it, friends, etc., but to often I question what I got myself into, and wonder if life will ever be normal for our family,...

*adapted from Deployment Health and Family Readiness Library