As printed in the 20 Aug 07 issue of the Navy Times – under the title New Terrain for Sailors, Spouses

Im wrestling with the Big “D”. No, I’m not talking about divorce – everybody breathe. “Oh, she’s means deployment!”

Close, but no.

The Big D, in this case, would be that word all military spouses know like an old friend: Denial.

With an Individual Augmentation coming up, I did some research into the stages of deployment. The five stages – pre-deployment, deployment, sustainment, redeployment and post-deployment – and what emotional response to expect in each stage are detailed in “The Emotional Cycle of Deployment: A Military Family Perspective,” U.S. Army Medical Department Journal, April-June 2001.

Included in Stage 1 is, you guessed it, the “D” word.

It’s safe to say, I am officially in Stage 1. Except for the fact that I had to suddenly deal with my Sailor coming home a few days ago with a sore arm after receiving an Anthrax shot.

Another flash of reality came just yesterday, when my Sailor announced we had an appointment with Legal to update our wills.

Now I know there are going to be some experienced spouses out there wondering what all the fuss is about. Let me explain, however experienced I am with sea duty, this IA business has completely thrown me for a loop.

When preparing for a deployment – meaning my husband going out to sea – I’m used to the “build up”. This starts with boat “functions”, like family night at the Bowling Alley. Other events include FRG meetings and Pre-Deployment night; these events give me a chance to connect with “boat people” and quickly immerse me into what I like to call “boat life”.

For some underways, I was very involved in boat life; other times, I was busy with my own life – working, youth sports, traveling, etc. It was nice to know though, that I had the option to connect with other spouses going through the same experience. Connecting with and supporting each other helps. I get really good at rationalizing why I’m OK with my husband being gone for months on end with little or no contact when my family, friends or acquaintances say, “Well, I don’t know how you do it!”

It’s been a couple of months since the day my husband came home and broke the news, “Honey, I think I might be going to Afghanistan”. We went through the waiting for orders. Then the day arrived when he came home and plopped them down on the kitchen counter. Just like that, deploying for 13 months. To think I used to feel sorry for myself or complain about a 6 week patrol! I’ll barely be figuring out how long it takes to get packages to Afghanistan in six weeks.

In preparing for this IA I have yet to attend a pre-deployment night or meet another Sailor deploying with my husband. I have met no wives in my situation. I’m sure they must be out there, but how do you find them?
Communication for Submarine Sailors is brutal. No phone calls. No Instant Messaging. Ever. Occasional email, but mostly just good old fashioned U.S. Postal Mail. I keep telling myself it will be like two six month deployments with care packages, email, instant messaging and get ready for this “phone calls & web cams”!

Now that I’m dealing with Anthrax shots, legal appointments, and the “accessories” that keep arriving via UPS – the stuff the Navy doesn’t issue, but my husband INSISTS is vital to his deployment and that he can’t manage without – the denial coping mechanism is starting to give way to reality.

When I force myself to actually think about him leaving, my first thought is of the day when I drive home from the airport without him. I imagine myself sinking down into my seat, wiping away the tears and thinking about how much I miss him even though he’s only been gone five minutes. In that instant, I’m spiraling down into my own mini-breakdown.

Then I’m reminded there is always someone else who has faced more adversity, more set backs and more danger. So, I breathe a little easier and decide to push through.