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Real Advice for Military Spouses
What advice do you have for other moms, wives and girlfriends whose loved ones are deploying?
Before your spouse leaves on deployment I highly recommend doing the following:
- Have your spouse find out if there is a spouses network you can join organized by the command – these networks should provide updates while your spouse is deployed and organize family events.
- If you don’t have a paying job, volunteer. If you are actively involved in your community the time will go by much quicker. Maybe you could teach a class at a local community center, set up a group to send packages to the troops or help out at your child’s school.
- Set goals for yourself. Did you want to go back to school, join a gym, or re-decorate your home? Now is the time to do that.
- If there are things around the home that need to be repaired, make sure your husband takes care of this before he leaves, just don’t leave it until the last minute to remind him.
- Ensure that things such as your wills are up to date and that your military identification card will not expire while he is gone. Also make sure that you have a power of attorney drawn up for anything you may need to do on your spouse’s behalf whilst they are deployed and for the care of your children should anything happen to you. Again, don’t leave this until the last minute.
- Organize events with friends, whether it is a monthly night out, a weekly knitting circle, a walking group, a book club or a coffee break when the kids are at school.
- Never forget that you are a strong, independent woman and you will get through this deployment.
- If you have children, have your spouse record a video reading stories to the child or purchase the recordable books such as those sold at Hallmark.
- If you have younger children there is a Sesame Street Kit available to help them understand what is going on.
- Have daddy give each of the children a gift before he leaves. Our children loved the Daddy Dolls they were given and cuddled them in bed every night. He recorded a message on a little voice box inside each that told them how much he loved them and said goodnight to them.
What do you do to stay in touch with your loved one while they're deployed?
Monthly care packages will be very well received by your loved one while they are deployed. Sending them decorations for holidays they will be missing, packages of blank cards that they can send home, their favorite treats, photographs and artwork from your children will give them a little piece of home.
Sending a weekly letter detailing things that have happened, a funny story, a milestone that your child reached, what you were doing to stay busy will give them something to read during their down time.
If your spouse has access to a computer, then sending emails and setting up times to Skype with you and your children is a great way to stay in touch.
Websites For Heroes is a free secure (password protected) site that you can join, which we used during my husband’s last deployment. You can upload photo albums and video to share with your loved one.
Be very aware of OPSEC requirements when discussing deployments or posting anything on-line, especially to social networking sites and blogs.
What are some "practical tips" you would suggest for the deployment/"saying goodbye"?
I always tuck a little present and card into my husband’s bag right before he leaves so he has a surprise later on.
If at all possible have a family member or friend come with you when you say goodbye to take photographs and be there to give you a hug as your loved one leaves.
If your spouse is leaving on a ship, have them find out if there is a time that spouses and children will be able to go aboard to have a look. This was a great experience during my husband’s second deployment, our son was able to see where his dad would eat, sleep and he could stand on the deck.
What would you suggest for welcoming someone home?
Depending on the time of day you are expecting your spouse to arrive you can either make your spouse’s favorite meal and dessert or pick up take-out from their favorite restaurant.
This is a time that you will want to have somebody with you to take photographs and video of the arrival. It’s a momentous occasion and you will want it to be recorded.
Organize to get together with other spouses a couple of days before arrival to make welcome home banners to decorate your home with and signs to hold as you welcome them in. If at all possible make extra signs for deployed personnel who are single, or who you know will not have family or a spouse there to greet them.
I have always made t-shirts for myself and our kids to wear for my husband’s arrival. I use a plain white t-shirt and print a photo and message onto t-shirt transfer paper and iron it on.
Ask your spouse how they would like to celebrate their homecoming. There may be a specific meal that they have missed, maybe they want to just relax with you and the kids and get an early night to catch up on some much needed rest or maybe they want you to invite a few close friends and family over for an intimate get-together.
** “Coming Home” airs Sundays at 10 pm/9c on Lifetime. The powerful all-new reality series features U.S. soldiers’ surprise family reunions after serving long tours of duty on behalf of the country, pays tribute to American armed forces personnel and their families.