Saturday, July 7, 2012

America calls him a Solider- I call him Dad

Somethings that's been heavy on my heart and mind here lately is" Deployments". Anyone that has spent a good amount of time around us in the last year and a half knows why....

I have lived the military life for most of my growing up years. But it wasn't until about 10 years ago that I got my first experience at what the word Deployment meant...   I didn't like it then and I really don't like it now..

We have personally gone through 3 deployments since 9/11 happened.  The first one being a year long one to Fort Riley Kansas. At the time we thought it was awful but looking back now... I would of taken that deployment over the last 2 in a heat beat...

The 2nd one was a very very long 22 months in Iraq being the longest out of all 3.

And the 3rd most recent one was a very long 15 months in Africa. It was probably the hardest out of all 3. Iraq was long and there was definitely nothing easy about it but I struggled emotionally, physically, and mentally more with the Africa one then I did the Iraq one. Just ask my best friend....

I don't know if it was because I was older and understood better, or if it was because I knew how hard Iraq was so I dreaded the Africa one more, or because of everything else that happened during this deployment. Whatever the reason may be, this one has definitely been the hardest of all 3. It was only through God's grace, and strength and the amazing love, support, and encouragement of our loving church family, friends and family in both Garden and Stafford/ St. John area, and most importantly my best friend and her awesome family that we got through it as well as we did.  The deployment was kinda the icing on the cake on top of  everything else that seemed to be thrown in our laps unexpectedly.  In less then a 6 month time span we had lost someone very very special, my Grandpa,  we watched my Grandma go downhill and get worse by the day, to her moving in with us, to me going through my first major hard break up, to continuing to watch Grandma go downhill,  still dealing with the loss of my Grandpa and in the midst of all this a deployment is thrown at us. My Daddy, of all people, is shipped out of the country for yet another deployment...  leaving Mom to take care of not only us, but now my Grandma,who is getting worse by the minute, and we don't know why. In a very short amount of time my world ,as I know it, is turned completely upside down and is never quite the same.....   Before I really had time to stop and think about it my Grandpa and in a way my Daddy, two of the most important men in my life, are taken from me and everyone was just expecting for us to go on with life as if nothing ever happened...

Less then a week after Dad arrived in Africa, my Grandma got really bad and we ended up in the ER with her, the same day my senior pictures were taken. Within a matter of minuets of getting the results from the CT scan, Grandma was air lifted to Wichita and within a couple days of that she had to have brain surgery to remove a huge tumor on her brain. Luckily it wasn't cancerous and they were able to remove it pretty easily ;) You can read the whole story Here

However, my reason for this post isn't to give you a full report on everything that happened during this deployment, but more to give you a little more insight as to what a deployment is like and what goes through the minds of the families while their loved one is away fighting for someone else's freedom  for many, many months.

Is it easy? No! It is one of the hardest things out there to go through. People have tried to tell me that they understand what it's like because they have a brother or sister off at college... umm...  let me just get this out here... having a brother or sister off at college is NOTHING compared to having someone like your Daddy or Spouse deployed for anywhere from a year to 15 to even 22 months at a time. I have a brother off at college and trust me, it is not even close to the same.

Does it get easier with time? Yes, and No! More NO  then Yes. It doesn't ever really get easier, you just kinda learn to deal with it and go on because you have to. You sort of go into survival mode for the length of the deployment and tell yourself that you don't have a choice but to survive this and be strong for the loved ones around you. You survive and get through it because you HAVE to, not because you WANT to!  A part of you leaves for the amount of time your loved one is gone and doesn't return until they are back safe and sound with you.

The love and support of friends and family becomes vital during a time like this. You may not think so at the beginning, but no matter how strong you think you are, at some point your going to need someone to talk to, to cry with, vent too, and even just share the silence with. Talking about it is important. For those of you who know me,  I'm generally a very quiet person and not one to be open about how I'm feeling and or what's going through my mind at any time but especially at a time like this. You start feeling very alone after a while. You start feeling like no one cares and your the only person feeling this way. Your entire world has been turned upside down for the time being and no one cares, at least that's how you feel. Chances are they do, they just don't know how to show it because they don't understand. Unless you've personally been through a deployment there's no way to understand what its like. However, if your lucky like I was, you'll have that one person that know's you better then you know yourself sometimes. In my case, my best friend. She became my sanity through the entire thing and I honestly couldn't of it survived it without her love and support.. She laughed with me,  she was a shoulder to cry on when I needed it the most, and most importantly she realized I needed to talk before I really realized it myself. She saw I needed her and was there, no questions asked. She knew when I needed a good distraction and was there no matter what. Having someone you can call on, no matter what, day or night is very important in being able to survive something like this. Don't try to handle it or go through it on your own. Don't be afraid to call on that special person, whoever it may, be during a time like this. If they truly care about you like they claim, they will be there for you, whether its in the middle of the day or the middle of the night. Just knowing I had someone I could call on when needed did more then that person could ever know!

Don't be afraid to talk about it. If you cry, you cry. Don't hold your emotions in and try to hide it. It'll just make you feel worse. I preferred not to talk about. I didn't want to talk about it because it was easier to deal with and didn't feel so real if I just kept quiet about it. Didn't work out so well...  you end up completely loosing it before its all over and have a very worried best friend on your hands ;) and then you both end up crying. Yes this is experience talking ;)  Everyone deals in their own way and that's okay... to a point.

On the other hand, if someone you know is going through a deployment be there for them. Ask them to go do things to get them out and about. Don't be surprised if your once very outgoing, talkative friend becomes some what quiet and reserved and just not interested in doing much. Chances are they are going to become somewhat depressed during a time like this. They are hurting like they didn't know possible. Encourage them to stay active and try to get them interested in going to do things. They will thank you! Chances are, deep down, they want too. Don't take offense if they turn you down, or if they don't act interested. Just keep encouraging them too and most importantly be there for them, even if its just to share the silence with. They need to know someone cares and is there for them.  As I said before, just knowing someone cares and is there does more then you could possible know ;)

Also, don't expect for things to get back to normal when their solider gets home.  As hard as it is to have them gone, as much as we hate when they're gone, it does become somewhat of a new normal for the time they're gone. The first 6 months they're home are just as hard, if not harder, then when they were away. Everyone's gotten into a "new normal" by the time they get back and now they are having to readjust to having them home. And the solider is having to readjust to being home. It's hard on everyone involved. No one warned us of this  and we were a little blind sided when Dad came home from Iraq. It took everyone a while to get back into a normal routine again. Because it was so hard, I spent the last 3 to 6 months Dad was deployed to Africa dreading his homecoming a little bit. Did that mean I wasn't excited about him coming home? NO! I was super duper excited and couldn't wait to have him home again, however, a part of me dreaded the transition! Memories of the last deployment home coming was coming to mind and I was absolutely terrified at times. He has been home 5 months now and things are just now starting to feel normal again. As normal as normal gets around our house hold anyway ;) There have been some pretty stressful times in the last 5 months. I'm not gonna lie and tell you its been easy, because it hasn't! However, having him home is WONDERFUL!!  As hard as it was, and has been, and continues to be at times, we're slowly adjusting and I wouldn't trade it for anything! Continue to be there for them when the solider gets home and let them know if they need to talk your there. If they need to get away from things for a couple hours, your there. Whatever they may need... be there for them!  Don't just assume since their solider is home that they no longer need someone to talk too, because chances are they do! :)

It is an emotional roller costar through the entire thing. We honestly don't know how to feel or how we're supposed to react at times. If you are going a deployment or have gone through one and you've experienced some or all of this, don't worry! Its normal. If someone you know is going through one or have gone through one and this is sounding familiar then take note and be there for them, if it all possible ;)  Even just a simple I'm thinking of you, here for you, wondering how things are going text, phone call, card, and or email can do more then you can possible know. The random out of the blue I'm thinking and praying for you texts did wonders for me. It got me through during the times when I was beginning to wonder how in the world I was gonna survive it all.

Though the Military life is nothing but easy, its also very rewarding and the sense of pride you get knowing your Daddy, Husband, Uncle, Grandpa (whoever may be over there) is  fighting for your freedom and someone else's is something I don't even begin to know how to describe! I can't say how proud I am to be a daughter of a US Solider. He is my Hero!  Some people's hero's were capes, mine wears Dog Tags and a Uniform and I wouldn't trade it for anything.