What No One Told Me About Deployments

Let’s play a word game! I’ll write a word, and you shout the first word that comes to mind (okay, maybe don’t do that … just write it down or something).


(Are you thinking bird? That’s what I’m thinking, but isn’t it cheating for me to play on both sides?)


(Wars? Okay, okay, that was the last one!)


Okay, I am going to spoil it, even though I said I wouldn’t. I think a lot of people probably thought “deployment.” Don’t those words go hand in hand? Isn’t that the reality of this crazy life we live? There’s always a deployment lurking somewhere on the horizon. A challenge. A war for your relationship that spans a thousand miles. A million daily battles to keep all the little pieces of life glued together.

Oh, I know it gets easier the longer it goes on. You find a rhythm that masks the chaos below. And it’s a convincing mask that even makes you believe you’re OK.

But what no one told me before my husband’s first deployment is that it’s not just the deployment that’s hard. It’s the knowing and dreading that it’s coming. It’s the figuring out how to be a wife again when he comes home. It’s not just the separation.

From the moment you know it’s coming, the months, the days, the hours, the minutes begin draining away from you. They slide through your fingers, becoming all the more precious as they dwindle before you. Until the last hour. That quiet hour when the waiting is so small that all that’s left is to be quiet. It’s not time to say goodbye yet, but no other words come to mind.

Maybe he’s playing with the kids in the morning light. Maybe, since they don’t know, there is a joyful sound around you. But inside it’s quiet. Painfully quiet.

And then he’s gone.

You’re strong enough to run the world alone, and so you do. You figure out how to live a different life while he’s gone. There’s beauty in the strength it takes to make it through. Suddenly, you’re a mechanic, fix-it, super-human! But it’s all tainted because something is missing.

You would think after surviving the deployment itself, the homecoming would be pure elation. And it is, mostly. Except you’ve been living this life for months now, and it takes time to bring him back in. Maybe just an hour. Maybe a week. But it is painful to realize the strain your marriage has endured, even as it is lifting away. It’s almost shocking that such a distance could suddenly appear between you, even if the physical distance is gone.

A deployment is more than the time you spend apart. I didn’t know that before. But I do now.