Wrestling with the Big D

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.

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2 Responses

  1. I know when I was living in norfolk the FFSC was getting really in depth into the IA support (support groups, info forums, and such) for the family of sailors going IA. Is there anything around you that may offer that kind of support?
    I’ll dig up all my info that I collected and see what I come up with that may help you. I know there is a phone number that is supposed to be great for answering questions and such (I’m going to try to find it). And I know that on the IA orders the IA number your sailor is issued is supposed to be more valuable than his SS# when getting info to him through Red Cross or through the IA info phone number.

    Although many of us have no experiance I really hope that doesn’t keep you from sharing your experiances with us!

  2. OK here is the info I found for IAs
    the number I was talking about in my other comment is the NE number (Noble Eagle Number) I was told in one of my classes that this number is just as important and in some cases more important then the sailors SS#. On the orders where I have seen it is on the first page under REF: and on one of the last lines, the orders I have on hand as my example, it is located and looks like this:

    REF: (P) RTN/Line Number NE-1234-5678

    The care line number for the IA Family Readiness center is 1-877-364-4302 (24 hour care line), and I was told that a real person answers that phone ( i just verified it, and they are very nice and welcome any and all questions ) . They do not hold family readiness group meetings, they leave that the the Family Support Centers.

    http://www.ecrc.navy.mil (this is the website that goes with the above phone number) When I was verifying the phone number, they were really helpful and said, if there are any questions ot comments that you have from the info provided on the website or even improvements that may be needed, to give them a call and they will take that information and make updates and changes.

    sailors can get info on IA at the NKO website, there are check lists and other types of things to assit the sailor in preparing for the deployment.

    I hope this helps you and anyone else that may be going IA!!! If i come across any more info that I have I’ll put it up.

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