Deployments mean different things to different people. For the Soldier, it means filling the garage with gear and clothes, folding and packing everything into those dark green duffle bags. For the spouse, that means avoiding packing areas and looking for ways to fill your time. If you have kids, it also means finding ways to break the news and offer small pieces of hope for.

Deployments mean different things to different people. For the Soldier, it means filling the garage with gear and clothes, folding and packing everything into those dark green duffle bags. For the spouse, that means avoiding packing areas and looking for ways to fill your time. If you have kids, it also means finding ways to break the news and offer small pieces of hope.

I remember being a kid, and my parents sitting my sister and I down for a talk. We knew from the looks on their faces what was about to happen. My dad was leaving again. We had to share the load of chores around the house and pick up where my dad left off. It’s funny how easy it is not to notice how much someone does until they are gone. All the yard work had to be done, regardless of the weather. When something had to be fixed, that meant that now we needed to sort through the tools in the garage ourselves and figure it out. In the beginning, dressers would be built a bit crooked, and pictures hung a little off-center, but they still got done.

As a spouse, the burden is different. I knew from personal experience what I was about to put my children through. I knew that Christmas was going to come and go with that empty seat that no one could ignore.

Just like when you buy a car, you never realized how many people drive it. As you drive to work, you suddenly notice how full the roads are of the same vehicle you just bought. The same thing happens in reverse. Father’s Day rolls around, and you never realized how many fathers surrounded you until yours wasn’t there. I remember standing in church on Father’s Day, clapping in honor of the fathers in the service. The only one that I wanted to celebrate was my own and I didn’t know when I would get the opportunity.

For me, making homecoming signs proved therapeutic. Our kids were 3 and 5, so they didn’t grasp the concept of a year-long deployment. In order to help our kids, I made a countdown of the holidays. It was a holiday ladder, this way, as each holiday happened we could cut it off and see our progress toward homecoming. While this helped them recognize our progress, it did nothing to dull the pain of actually enduring those holidays apart.

What I found helped us to prepare for deployments the most is not the packing or countdowns. Instead, it’s living in the present. This means you take a few more pictures, you swing a little longer, you stay up a little later, and you cuddle a little more. These are what push you through the deployment. The memories that remind us that it is not forever.