Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Survive a Deployment with Grace and Dignity

This has been a post that I've been wanting to write for a while. I don't claim that I handled the deployment perfectly. There were more than a few moments of heartache and complete meltdowns. But this is the list that I've compiled from my own experience and from talking to women much wiser than I.

1. Don't compare. James's unit was the last one to deploy for a full 12 months (deployments this long do still happen but they aren't the "standard"). The month after he deployed, they switched to 9-month deployments. I was really bitter about that for a while. But you know what? Deployments were 18 months not so long ago. And I'm sure there were plenty of people that envied the 12-month deployments when that happened. There will always be someone whose husband has a shorter deployment. Or who gets to talk to their husband more than you do. Or one who gets more flowers in the mail than you. Wasting time on comparison will only make the time go slower.

I have a friend at work whose husband is only in town on the weekends. She timidly told me that she knows a little bit what it's like to go through long separations, but then said right away "but I know it's not exactly the same." Apparently, she had another military wife get angry at her for making the comparison. Really? Sure, it's not exactly the same. But what's she going through is hard too, and we should never downplay other people's trials because we think ours are harder.

2. Realize that someone, at least once, will say something thoughtless. I've seen more than one list that says something like "Things to never say to a military wife." It's going to happen to you. It might even come from a fellow military spouse. I even had it happen with my husband. On instant messenger, James greeted me with an "I got stabbed today" and I immediately (within exactly 1 second) fell apart. He then proceeded to tell me (probably 2 seconds later) that one of his soldiers accidentally stabbed him in the arm with a box cutter, so he needed a few stitches. It's a kinda funny story now, but I think it's a good example of how a lot of us are on an emotional tipping point during deployments.

Your loved one is at war and it's difficult for people to know exactly what to say, so they say the wrong thing. The best way to handle this is to be prepared and realize that people in most cases, are just ignorant. Picture yourself responding calmly and with grace before it actually happens.

When I wore my deployment pin while I was working at the running store, I had a handful of customers who wanted to talk with me about their opinion of the war. When it got to be too much (which only happened a couple times) I just told them, "You know, I'm really proud of my husband, but right now I'm just not in an emotional state to talk about that." Maybe for you, it will mean walking away. Maybe it will mean a quick inner prayer "Lord Jesus, help me handle this ignorant person with grace." Maybe it might mean putting that person in their place. And you know what? If you start crying, maybe they'll never say that hurtful thing to anyone else again.

3. Stand up for yourself. Maybe it means insisting that you keep your phone near you at work. Or possibly asking your in-laws for a little space when he first gets home. If you work, take advantage of the military clause in the Family Medical Leave Act to spend some extra time with him before he leave or/and or when he gets home.

4. Remember that it's hard for his mom too. As his wife, it's going to affect you (and your kids if you have them) the most. The next person it will in most cases affect most is his mom. Her baby is at war. What she's going through is different, but very hard as well.

5. Support one another. Find at least one battle buddy that will understand what you're going through. Fellow bloggers are fantastic, but I can't tell you how much of a difference it made when I got to meet with my friend Sam for coffee in person every week or two.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:4

6. Pray for him. I went through the Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian multiple times. I don't know that God decided to keep James safe because I prayed, but at the very least, it helped me remember that God is in control. Even if the very worst had happened, God would have carried me through it.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

7. Find something to keep yourself going while he's gone. Don't say "your love for one another." I mean something else. For me, it was a couple things: my running goals, being a volunteer leader in my church youth group, and my faith. I talked to another wife recently that said she made a goal of reading 25 books and ended up reading over 30. Another friend of mine said that her 1-year-old daughter kept her going. I have another friend who finished her law degree during her husband's deployment. Find something else to base your identity in besides being his wife. I know that may seem strange or drastic, but it will help you to not be completely focused all the time on the fact that he's gone. Make yourself proud of your accomplishments for when you look back on this time.

She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. 
Proverbs 31:25

Is there anything you think I missed? How did/are you handling the deployment?

<3 A.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Life Goes On... (Even when my blogging doesn't.)

I haven't been keeping up with my blog. I feel guilty about it. Truthfully, I'm at my computer 8 hours a day, and getting on my laptop when I come home at the end of the day isn't all that appealing to me. I miss blogging sometimes. It was something I needed during all that training and the deployment. Now I've got a job I love and a husband that loves me (that is actually home!) and there's just not a lot of extra time to blog.

However, I do continue to have people that keep on stumbling to my site from pinterest or from googling about Ranger School. I really do appreciate getting comments and tweets from you. And there are those couple blogger friends that I made when it was hardest. I thought I'd give you all an update. :)

On April 26th, James and the rest of his brigade competed for the Expert Infantry Badge. It's a little backwards, because a lot of them, including James, already have the Combat Infantry Badge, which basically means that you've been shot at and returned fire in combat. The CIB is normally worn instead because it outranks the EIB, but it's still always good to have another badge under the belt. Only about 10% of guys that try for the EIB will get it.

To earn the EIB, the soldiers had to do a series of events to show their expertise at being an infantryman (makes sense, right?). One of the events was a 12-mile march with a 30+ pound ruck on their backs. James, being the competitive runner that he is, decided he wanted to win this. So out of his whole brigade, James finished first after running the 12-miler at a 9 min/mile pace.* Only James and one other guy in his platoon made it to the 12-miler event so the rest of their platoon skipped breakfast to be there to cheer them in. I'm pretty sure James's platoon was pretty proud of him as their platoon leader.

The general that presented the awards in the ceremony actually shook his hand after the ceremony for doing so well on the ruck. I had to be at the ceremony, because I couldn't resist another opportunity to pin another badge on my husband. It's probably one of my favorite things about being an Army wife.

Then not long after that, I ran the Tacoma City Half Marathon with my friend Chrissy and James ran the full. I ran a 2:01, which I was pretty proud of, considering that I haven't been able to run as much as last year. James ran his first regular (non-Army-ruck) marathon at a 3:15. He started at the same time, so it was kind of cool to get done and then find a place to cheer him on.

So those are the two major events that have happened since I talked to you last. On the weekend, we try to take advantage of living in this amazing state with lots of outdoor-sy things to do. Like kayaking, biking, and camping. Our church has a bike club, which is pretty dang awesome.

My job is also really fun. I am doing even more programming now and I love it. I think it's a good sign when the day seems to go by fast because you're having fun doing what you're doing.

Alright. Well there's my update. I update twitter and instagram (both @runningarmywife) way more often these days. Follow me on there and I would love to follow you back!

Much love,

*Which is actually around the speed that I would have run it with no extra weight.

PS: A couple months later, and James's eyes are perfect from the PRK. Thank you, Army!