I remember the day we found out about Kyle’s deployment like it was yesterday. Since it was the first one, the moment has hung in my mind for a long time. It had been just a normal drill weekend, and I tidied up our apartment while I waited for him to get home. It was a Sunday in August, and the sun was still beaming through our shades as I folded laundry upstairs. I heard the hum of his car as he pulled in the drive, rounding the corner into his usual spot. I listened, as I have many times before, as he pulled his backpack out of the backseat and made his way up the steps. I waited for the nob to turn before making my way to the top of the stairs to greet him.
Something felt different that day, as he was reluctant to tell me what their briefings had been about. We were in the middle of planning our wedding, and in the span of 10 minutes, all of those plans unraveled. And I felt so many things all at once; anger, confusion, panic, excitement.. I was happy for him, truly, because he wanted it for so long. And I went through the process over those next few days of asking myself, “why now? What do we do next?” It took me a while to come to peace with what was happening. I had to accept that there’s no perfect timing for anything, and that whatever the big guy upstairs had decided, we would have to roll with it. And so we did..
But no one ever tells you what it’s really like. You see the pictures of the woman in the pretty dress, welcoming a soldier home. You see children waving tiny flags as a ship comes into port. You see those big, homemade banners, covered in glitter with a cute little saying. But between the moment we wave goodbye, and the moment we see them walking towards us again, lie so many moments that we never expected.
Related: What It Means To Love A Military Man
No one tells you how lengthy pre-deployment separation can be. On top of knowing that they’ll be deployed for X amount of time, you have to deal with the military’s way of preparing for that. That means training, and lots of it. In our case, half of it was in-state and half will be down south, totaling about 2 months of time apart prior to the real separation.
No one tells you how to adjust. Everyone does this differently, but if there were guidebooks on how to cope, I would own them all. Sometimes “coping” for me, is just not thinking about everything that’s happening. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I’ve already had a couple of hysterical crying moments where this journey has truly brought me to my knees.
No one tells you about the questions you will ask yourself. Why did we do this? How are we going to make it so long? What will happen?
No one tells you that the last moments your service member spends stateside, may not be spent with you. Many of them will go straight from pre-deployment training to deployment, with only a couple days in between. The final farewell often happens weeks before the real deal, which can be hard to digest.
And lastly.. No one tells you what it feels like to imagine a life without your spouse. Truth be told, it’s indescribable. As a military wife, it’s not a thought I haven’t come across. I’ve asked myself what I would do, and I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having others ask me as well. But I’ve never had to seriously ponder it, and there have been days when it’s enough to tear me apart.
But as one day turns into the other, I find myself growing a little bit stronger. I have a lot of faith that this was meant to happen, and that we will both be better for it. Someday, these struggles will just be stepping stones to a bigger picture, and we’ll be able to look back and know that we got through it.
What are some things you never knew prior to a deployment/separation? What would you want other first-timers to know?