As a military spouse one of the biggest pre-deployment decisions I’ve had to make was whether I should stay or go: home that is. When my husband prepared to embark on his first deployment, I prepared to embark on a deployment of my own… back to my hometown, to my old bedroom at my parents’ house. It was one of the most challenging endeavors that I had encountered since my husband left me to navigate TMO all by myself when we received our very first set of orders.
At the time going home didn’t seem like much a of choice as it was as necessity. I didn’t really have any close friends in North Carolina, our lease was expiring, and I needed to finish school where I’d started it, in Phoenix. So while he was away training for his imminent deployment, I packed up our belongings and put most of them in a storage unit. During one of these trainings, my mom flew out and we packed up my car with everything I thought I would need for the next eight months as well as my dog, and we drove back to Arizona.
I flew back to North Carolina to finish moving out of our house and to spend predeployment leave together. After having only a weekend with his family in New Mexico instead the anticipated two weeks, we bid farewell at the airport as he flew back to North Carolina to deploy, and I flew home to finish school. The deployment was truly the epitome of Murphy’s Law at work, it was moved up and extended. North Carolina experienced fires, hurricanes and tornadoes, and I had to re-learn how to talk to people who had no idea what I meant when I talked about BAH and MRE’s. I also had to relearn how to live with my parents’ after not living at home for three years; we certainly experienced some adjusting.
Going home wasn’t all bad though. I stayed busy between several jobs, school, internships and the gym. It was also nice being home to share things like holidays with my family. I learned a lot over the course of that deployment and made some great friends both at home and back in NC. I’d built a great support system on both coasts, so even though there were those days where it would’ve been easier to stay in bed and feel sorry for myself; I’d made myself so busy and had so many people pushing me, that it just wasn’t an option. I was so busy in fact that I had to move all my finals up two weeks because my husband ended up coming home two weeks sooner than I’d planned. When I finally made it to the end and was able to catch my breath, I knew that the next deployment had to have the same tenacity.
Of course, next deployment came sooner than we’d anticipated, and again the stay or go option didn’t seem like as much of an option. By now we’d moved on base and were content in our home. I’d build friendships and commitments in North Carolina that I couldn’t just abandon for eight months, so this time I stayed. There were certainly aspects of being so close to the military and the little world I’d become so comfortable in that made the deployment both easier and harder at the same time. While it was nice to talk about BAH and LES’s without having to translate, every guy in cammies reminded me even more of my husband and how much I missed him.
I countered the desire to hide in the house until it was over by finding other wives who were trying to do the same thing and dragging them on adventures with me. We went to lunch, concerts, movies, had game nights, gym dates, and plenty of smiles. I built some amazing friendships that I have been able to continue to cultivate since our husbands’ return; something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had moved home again. I found that through the two deployments each one had its own challenges, but both offered me knowledge and experiences that I can share.
So whether you’re planning to move home or stay where you are during the next deployment, know that neither one is the “right” choice. The decision to stay or go is totally personal and is rarely much of a choice, there are pros and cons to both options and you ultimately have to do what is best for you and your family. For us, sending me home for the first deployment worked out. I was able to make great strides with my education and gain experiences that I never would have otherwise. Staying put for the second deployment also suited us well, as I was able to finally find a job that I love and build some amazing friendships. Neither choice made the deployment easy, no matter where I was, he wasn’t there and I missed him, but no matter where I was I knew he loved me and that we were doing what was best for our future.
Staying close to where he is stationed during a deployment is a great option in the sense that you’re close to everything you could need. I can’t count how many times I had to call on friends to take notes at the family readiness meeting so I knew what was going on, or had to have them pick up some green shirts or retrieve his boots from the storage unit because the closest base to my parents’ was an air force base an hour away and they didn’t have anything my husband needed in his care packages. Moving home was great in the sense that I was able to grow closer with my parents and we were able to save a lot of money since we didn’t have rent or utilities to worry about. Like I said, there are pros and cons to both and what it all boils down to is what is going to be best for you and your family. I wish you all the best and hope that no matter where you go, you always have the kind of friends who will have wine dates via Skype and will send your husband his boots that he forgot in a storage unit 2500 miles from where you are, because whether you stay or go, deployments are best tackled with true friends.
What have you discovered on your deployments?