It was a Thursday in December, and I was cautiously navigating the Raleigh-Durham International Airport parking lot when my phone rang. It was my husband.
I answered, “Hello?”
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“I’m trying to figure out where I’m supposed to go to pick your mom up, so I can’t really talk. What’s up?”
“Well I just found out I’m deploying Tuesday.”
“…..Tuesday. TUESDAY!? Like in four days?”
As if I wasn’t struggling enough already to try and find the stinking cell phone lot…this news certainly didn’t help.
We knew my husband was probably going to be deploying sometime very soon. But this soon? My mind was blown…how was this even possible? We still had boxes to unpack in our new home.
A sudden deployment is hard enough. But a sudden deployment just a few weeks after we moved to a new duty station…with our 9-month-old daughter…right before Christmas.
Once I came to terms with the fact that we weren’t being Punk’d, we made a list of things we needed to do to get our affairs in order, something we had never had to do before. Up until this point, my husband’s entire Army career was spent in training – Basic Training, Officer Candidate School, Infantry School, Ranger School, and Airborne School. This was a swift dose of reality, and I needed some direction. So, I did what any girl would do, and I called my mom.
Fortunately, my mom is a seasoned veteran when it comes to preparing for deployments thanks to my dad’s 30-something years in the Army. Her advice: get a power of attorney, set-up a will, and spend as much time together as possible before he goes.
What she didn’t say was: your husband has two business days to do what normally takes at least two weeks to do, so buckle up! My husband was still so new to his unit, he didn’t have gear, he didn’t have the right patches sewn onto his uniform, he had to pack, and he had a full list of, “must-do before you leave,” Army training tasks to complete.
Ya’ll…thank goodness my mother-in-law was in town, because it was an all hands on deck situation. We were sewing on patches, doing laundry, signing wills, buying plug adapters, and steaming dress blues all while trying to keep our 9-month-old happy and entertained. We also managed to sneak in some nice dinners, Christmas gifts, and even a date night before the big day.
If you’ve ever experienced a deployment, you know the night before your loved-one leaves is the hardest. It’s a unique kind of misery. A mixture of, “Just go already so I can stop dreading you leaving,” and, “Please don’t go. I’m going to miss you so much, and I don’t know how I’m going to do this alone.”
But somehow, we do. And, in my experience, the fear of the unknown is much worse than what the unknown brings. It quickly becomes known – new routines, new friends, and new things to look forward to.
At 2:30 a.m. the day my husband left, he gently woke up my daughter, put her in her car seat and we headed to base to drop him off and say our good-byes. After big hugs and kisses, I got back in the car, wearing the beautiful new pajamas he had given me the night before – my Christmas present. The whirlwind of the past few days was over, and I was emotionally exhausted. We headed home, just me and my girl, while my husband started his journey overseas.
I couldn’t help but think about what a blessing it is to live in this country. I am so proud and thankful for all the servicemembers who drop everything at a moment’s notice to protect and defend our freedom as Americans. And I’m proud of those of us back home, holding down the fort and anxiously counting down the days till we are back together again.
If you’re dealing with a sudden deployment, you’re not alone. Get out of the house, join the FRG, and lean into your community. If you’d like to talk to someone for additional support, call Military OneSource. Support your spouse, make the most of your new routines, and take care of yourself. We’re all in this together.