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Military Monday: Deployment Length

August 8, 2011

Before I dive into my topic today I just want to pause and say thank you to all of the wonderful women (and my best friend Tedd ^_^) who went out of their way yesterday to make my bridal shower an absolutely delightful experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better day with family and friends: thank you. I feel so blessed to have you all in my life. Pictures and recipes on Wednesday!

***

When C left for the Army I made it a point to get myself as involved as I could in the family groups and official channels so that when things happened I would know. This included downloading several apps that most people probably don’t have on their smart-phones, like Army Online, which is basically a news aggregate for the armed forces. While he was in the sandbox I used these resources every day, sometimes multiple times; and I lived for the email in my inbox from the Commander’s wife, craving any bit of news, any photograph where I might spot him, any little hint that they might be coming home.

Since the return of my favorite Screaming Eagle in April, however, I have to admit I have barely looked at the online stuff, and even the emails from the FRG (Family Readiness Group) warrant only a quick glance before I delete them.

Amazing how circumstances affect our perception of what’s important, no?

At any rate, I’m glad I looked tonight, because I found an article saying that starting in January deployments are going to be cut from 1 year+ to 9 months.

Woo hoo!

This is so important for so many reasons – chief among them that the stress of a long deployment contributes to rates of divorce and PTSD. Day-to-day life in a war zone is a life lived on eggshells, knowing that any moment might be the last. While I’m grateful that C came home from his deployment largely unscathed, there have been moments when I saw behind the tough exterior to some of the fear that lives within a combat veteran. Like the time at my parent’s house when he stepped on a hair clip that made an unpleasant crunching sound and I saw his whole body tense and recoil– I could feel his blood pressure spike from 2 feet away.


Looked just like that, only broken.

When it came back down he told me that the sound of the clip under his boot was uncannily similar to the sound a pressure plate makes when you step on it, and the way to save yourself is to leap back and hope to God that you didn’t just trip an IED.

I was floored. It’s the kind of thing you don’t think about; I would’ve stepped on that same clip and thought– damn, I just bought that. I take for granted, and I think many of us do, the subtler ways in which a deployment can take its toll. It’s not all classic PTSD and combat stress. Sometimes it’s a missed phone call; a lost chance to connect. Another holiday or birthday spent away from loved ones.

So, yes, I’m all for shorter deployments.

Ironically, 9 months is actually longer than C’s first deployment. Thanks to the timing of when he ended training and arrived at his duty station, his time overseas only totaled a little over 7 months. When he reminded me of this earlier tonight I had to laugh– what do you mean that shorter deployments are going to be longer than this one was?!

Murphy, you have a terrible sense of humor.

The original article points out another “downside” to shorter deployments as well: no mid-tour leave. For those not familiar, mid-tour leave is the coveted two weeks in the middle of the deployment when the service-member gets to return home and have what amounts to a quick vacation.

I know this might shock some people, but I’m not convinced that losing mid-tour leave is a downside.

Was that the sound of dropping jaws? Hear me out.

When most families think of mid-tour leave, they think of the warm, fuzzy moments: spending time with their loved ones, knowing that they are sleeping warm in their beds for at least 14 days. I think about the other end, and how much I dread saying goodbye to my best friend. I’m not trying to be cynical. We’ve just had so many goodbyes, and they never get easier. I don’t seem to reach a point at which I think, “Meh, he’ll be back/we’ll see each other soon/he’s only going back to the South”. No. Each goodbye is as painful and gut-wrenching as the first. When he went back to garrison after being home on leave in May I was so upset that I was actually physically ill.

Good thing I’m moving down there, eh? But I digress.

I am not going to miss mid-tour leave, because it means that we only have to say goodbye once at the beginning of the deployment. While all of the other benefits of short deployments are great (and I know C certainly isn’t going to complain) this is by far the one that matters most to me.

Now if I could just get them to work on not deploying our soldiers at all… 😀

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