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May 16

Deployment oddities

Posted on Monday, May 16, 2011 in Army wife, Military Spouses

So has HabMoo deployed yet? He’s at Camp Ripley right now but will be home at the end of the week. So not really. His formal deployment ceremony is on Sunday. Will he be deployed the next day? Not really. He has home station activities. After that? I’m saying yes. Although he won’t be leaving the country yet and he’ll have another visit home.

This really messes with my head. Can I grieve yet? Can I begin some new activity to occupy my time alone yet? Can I get his stuff out of my way yet? I’m not sure.

HabMoo’s last deployment (or pre-deployment) training phase didn’t have much of an effect on my life. I went to his going away party, watched him open silly gifts, and get drunk, but then I left the party early. I felt a little sad but he was just a friend, and I was more concerned about my boyfriend’s second departure for a Peace Corps assignment after being evacuated from the Ivory Coast when fighting broke out there.  HabMoo’s trip abroad to represent the United States seemed like it would be better supported, better funded, and better organized.

A few months later and HabMoo was still in the states and I visited a few times. During one of those visits we said I love you and on another he asked me to marry him. So we used that deployment, really pre-deployment, time to give us the perspective on our feelings. So maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling more relaxed now that he’s out of the house. I expect something good from this time.

But now that the short trip I took to take my mind off his deployment is over, I’m turning my attention to his coming back home (I look forward to it. I miss him.) I’m also turning my attention to his departure ceremony (But he just left. I’m going to miss him.) I’m pretty good with contradictions and paradoxes, but this one is juggling my emotions like a Cirque du Soleil performer. I can’t imagine having to explain this all to little kids. Daddy’s back! No dear, he hasn’t actually left even though he was gone and we said good-bye.

I’m a little afraid that HabMoo is going to come home to a greeting from me that is just as confused. “I miss you! Haven’t you left yet?”

Jul 24

Spouse’s deployment: what to look forward to

Posted on Saturday, July 24, 2010 in Military Spouses

Whenever HabMoo has left for a deployment or months of training, I try to think of things to do I’d pass up if he was home. He’s only gone for three weeks for AT (annual training) but it’s not too early to plan for the year-long deployment next year.

Games

Phantom BraveHe sort of monopolizes the gaming systems we have. That’s OK, since before I met him I was playing Sims with a dogged determination to play it until it became fun. Then he introduced me to some good games. Like Rock Band. I always think I’ll play Rock Band with my friends when he’s gone. I don’t know why I always forget that he takes that with him when he goes. So no Rock Band during his AT. But he’s probably leaving enough pieces behind next spring that I can play. Friends: Can you come up with an awesome band name for us?

Food

Liver, beets, tuna fish, white sauces, here I come! If I think about it and don’t get into a rut of food we normally eat together.

Movies

Bette Davis will be playing next week. I’m thinking it’s time to watch all the Godfather movies again, too. And maybe catch up with those movies from the 40s and 70s I never saw. Maybe I’ll do a Robert Duvall festival.

Shopping

M'amI’m not much of a shopper, unless I’m in a book store. But I do enjoy telling HabMoo that he should buy me something and then telling him what. So during his last training, I got the artwork pictured at right. It reminded me of the animated emoticon he’d frequently use when we IM’d during his last deployment. It was of a smiley face tipping it’s cowboy hat. Plus it just makes me smile.

I’ll have to give him a list of flowers I like and don’t like. He tends to confuse various types. I’m not a big fan of spending money on something like flowers which die and have to be thrown in the compost, but occasionally they are appropriate. Since my views on when to send flowers is rather capricious, I just tell him when. Some women get them every week or so during a deployment and that’s too much waste of money. I’d rather save up and get a pair of pink leather gloves.

Travel

During the last deployment I went to Argentina and that was a great distraction. I think next year I’ll visit a friend in Vancouver. Anyone want to invite me anyplace else? I’m always up for Yellowstone. I’d love to go to the Calgary Stampede.

Pets

Three cats isn’t too many is it? I’ll be very susceptible to mewling kittens in my sister’s barn. I’ll want to rescue one and bring it home. I am sure of this. I am sure that having a new kitten would fill some of my time. I’m sure that the currents boys will not be happy. I am sure that I’ll regret it at times. But I bet I bring one home anyway. Sorry, HabMoo. But it’s better than bringing home a new boyfriend.

Jul 21

Army vs. Peace Corps deployment from the SO’s viewpoint

Posted on Wednesday, July 21, 2010 in Military Spouses

Today I was wondering why I’m already so focused on HabMoo’s deployment which is several months away. I suddenly recalled preparing for D’s Peace Corps service and how that was significantly different. But why and how?


Background: D is an old boyfriend I met shortly before he left for the Ivory Coast. While there, he had to be evacuated because of civil unrest. He lived with me for a few months and then left for Jamaica. HabMoo is my husband and we married after he was deployed, but a day or two before he left for Iraq. (He spent several months of deployment in the U.S. being trained and bored.)

Length of service

Even though the Peace Corps term is two years and the Army National Guard’s is now officially only one year, the Army deployment feels longer. When D was in the Ivory Coast and Jamaica I had the option of visiting him. I don’t have the option of flying to Kuwait and getting a tour of all the historic sites and national wonders. I never planned to go to the Ivory Coast, but I did have that option. And I did take the opportunity to visit D in Jamaica. The distance in terms of miles and time seemed less because I could influence it.

Plus I have the knowledge that the MN Army National Guard Red Bulls had the longest tour during WWII and so far in Iraq (22 months of active duty, 16 in Iraq) And those soldiers who had their deployments extended just when they thought they were coming home. I also remember how many months HabMoo was in the states seemingly just waiting to go to Iraq when the countdown would actually begin. So my trust in the announced length of deployment is very low.

Historic precedence

I haven’t seen any movies or heard any songs about the Peace Corps or their loved ones left at home. I have seen lots of war movies and have listened to my own family’s stories, so my expectations are that deployments truly suck for those left at home. If I let my imagination wander, it wanders to some pretty unpleasant stories and images.

When hostilities break out in a host country, Peace Corps volunteers are evacuated. Soldiers are sent the into the fray.

The image of the soldier and the nurse in Times Square is iconic, but reveals the relief of a war ending. I don’t expect the wars we’re in now to really end so I don’t envision HabMoo coming home when the war is over. I expect him to come home when the Army decides his unit can come home. I know that his family will be excited, but I don’t expect a parade or community celebration and relief.

When Peace Corps volunteers comes home, they bring lots of stories that everyone wants to hear. When soldiers come home everyone is curious, but cautious and not so sure they want to hear the stories.

Preparations

Preparing for D’s departure was emotional and involved gift-giving, getting his new address, buying phone cards, and making sure he left one of his t-shirts behind. The date was set even if we didn’t know exactly where he’d be working. The Ivory Coast was harder to prepare for since the country had less infrastructure, but when he left we weren’t as close and I liked the thought of learning more about him through letters. Jamaica was easier; I knew I could get phone calls and regular mail.

D was super excited about his Peace Corp preparations and didn’t hide that. I could share some of that excitement. HabMoo also displays some restrained excitement a, but even though this time he’s preparing for a fairly secure location in Kuwait, he’s still preparing for war. There’s excitement, but it’s in a different key. He’s making purchases just like D did, and planning what to pack. They both prepared for a mission, for service, and I could feel proud of each of them for that.  But preparing for poverty and cultural shock differs from preparing to carry a weapon with you to meals.

The organization

The Peace Corps does a good job of preparing loved ones and letting them know what to expect before, during, and after the volunteer stint is over. And it’s even possible for the volunteer to quit. The Army is trying to prepare families, but they still pretty much suck at it. The Peace Corps has more experience and functions in the U.S. as a single organization. The U.S. Armed Services has multiple branches and there are a multitude of poorly organized websites with information and resources. This serves to frustrate this family member more than it supports her.

If the Peace Corps says the volunteer will be at this location and this is how you can reach him in an emergency, then that’s what I’ll believe. If the Army tells me that, I’ll be thrilled that they shared concrete details and then I’ll wonder how long this information will be accurate. This is particularly true when the soldier has leave or a departure date. I trust dates when I have confirmation that my soldier is on a plane and not before. War is hell on one’s ability to schedule. I can’t help but wonder if he’ll be leaving in January or November instead of April or May.

Conclusion

Peace Corps isn’t war. It’s just a long-term separation which might change the volunteer, but will most likely be a positive experience. It’s hard and lonely and routines are trashed.

War is messy and unorganized and worrisome. It’s a much harder long-term separation which will certainly change the soldier. It might be a positive change, as I think HabMoo’s was from his time in Iraq, or it might not be. I worried about D coming home and being obnoxiously wanting to tell me how things were done in his host country and how privileged my life is. I worry about HabMoo coming home crazy.

Please note: I don’t mean crazy as in having PSTD. I worry about what being cooped up and bored day after day does to his psyche, not to mention the tone of his communications with me. I’m hoping he has a few important decisions to make while he’s there so he doesn’t have to re-learn the skill when he returns. Last time he came home with the trick of picking up a pencil with his upper lip. I hope he’s able to channel his creativity and energy as well this time around.

I hope I learn to be flexible and resilient.

Mar 11

As a reminder for the next time he comes home

Posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 in Army wife

HabMoo was at Fort Gordon for 14 weeks learning how not to lead. He missed holidays and my birthday. Now he’s home and I want to recall how the end of this first week feels for the next time he’s deployed or off for weeks of training.

It’s not the relief and joy I expected. Is has been both of those things, but not today. Today things just feel wrong and out of sync. By next week I’ll probably forget the frustration of today. So I’m recording this so I won’t be surprised or alarmed the next time.

He’s in the way. That’s what it really boils down to. Months of living alone means taking over all the space in the house. It means creating a new rhythm and routine. It means being able to ignore your own messes. And it means a new routine. For example, I miss the nightly phone calls. They were something I looked forward to every day. Now he wants to talk when he gets home from work and its time to eat. It used to be time to think about dinner and anticipate his call.

It’s funny how while he was gone I would make sure to unplug the coffee maker because it bothered him if I left it plugged in. It doesn’t bother me a bit. But I unplugged it as a reminder of his presence. I did not lock the doorknobs or close all the curtains like he did and like he’s doing now. I’ve cursed him just a little when having to use my key twice at the door–once for the deadbolt and for for the knob. No big deal really, and something easily adapted to. Like I said, in another couple of days I’ll forget that it even bothered me. It’s just that today it does.

One of the things I really looked forward to was just having him in the house, being able to talk to him whenever I wanted, receiving a caress as he walked by, simple familiarities. I’m enjoying that but I’m also having to adapt to things like him getting up earlier than I want to and being in our tiny kitchen when I am. The stuff I miss and the stuff that bugs me are very much related.

I feel like the wife who complained constantly about her husband’s snoring and then couldn’t fall asleep after he died because it was too quiet.