Deployment Diaries Part 3: Coming Home Reintegration From a Service Members Perspective

Deployment Diaries Part 3: Coming Home Reintegration From a Service Members Perspective

For someone who has her masters in Military Resilience, you would think reintegration would be a breeze, right? I studied all about the effects of deployment, and what redeployment would be like. I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

I expected to get irritated with my spouse, but even with all of the expectations, I wasn’t prepared. Not really anyway.

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Deployment Diaries Part 2: There Are Good Days, and Then There Are Bad Days

Deployment Diaries Part 2: There Are Good Days, and Then There Are Bad Days

… Then, there are bad days.

These are the days when you wake up feeling "off."  You can't help the feeling, a bad omen that today is not going to go well. You wake up exhausted as if you had a restless night with little REM. Your body aches like you've slept on a hardwood floor with a flat pillow between your head and arm.

Your soul struggles to understand the emotions that flow through your veins.

Today will be a bad day.

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How a Deployment Taught me to Love my Child Deeper

How a Deployment Taught me to Love my Child Deeper

I’d heard it before, other army spouses telling me that they were almost grateful for said deployment because it brought them closer to their children. I definitely thought they were a little nuts… at the time.

Now that my battle buddy, my son, and I are nearly done with 9 months of challenge after challenge; I can strongly attest to the fact that this deployment has not only brought me closer to my son but it has taught me to love him deeper.

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Why Everyone Should Send Care Packages & 52 Ideas to Include

It wasn’t until I deployed that I truly understood the importance of mailing care packages.

Prior to my experience, I thought the purpose of sending packages to deployed members was to give the person something they needed. Having now been on the receiving end, I realized it goes beyond fulfilling a physical need for some deodorant or beef jerky.

When you’re away from family and friends, there’s a void that you are left with. You miss the interpersonal communication, the personal touch of a kiss or an embrace. You long for something that just isn’t available to you.

Then, on those few sporadic mail days, you are blessed with something totally unexpected and super exciting.

It is on those days when I receive a care package that I feel the love emit from the contents inside.

From the card or note that cheers me up or brings a tear to my eye, to the k-cups that restock my stash and keep me going throughout the day.

These moments make you feel like a child on Christmas all over again.

I regret not sending packages to friends that were deployed; I just didn’t realize the emotions that could travel with these small blessings.

From here on out, I vow to be more diligent to care for friends, near and far. To send them love when they are away or when they are at home and need something a little extra because a little goes a long way.

When should you create a care package?

  • When you can’t physically be there for the person on the receiving end.

  • When you want to show them you love them and you care

  • When you want them to know you were just thinking about them

  • When you’ve identified a need and want to fulfill it

  • When someone is deployed or significant other is deployed, had a new baby, is going through a really rough season, just moved to a new location.

Is there ever a bad time to send a care package?

  • I don’t think there is ever a bad time to send a care package, but ultimately you should check the motive behind sending it. Don’t feel obligated to send something; you should genuinely want to send something out of the kindness of your heart.

  • Don’t replace care packages with actually being there for someone. Things are nice, but you can’t buy love. Sometimes, an individual needs a shoulder to lean on or a person to talk to and if you are hiding from filling that need by sending a package, I would encourage you to reconsider.

 
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What should you include in a care package?

For the Coffee Lover:

  • COFFEE (k-cups, refillable K-cups, Ice coffee packets)

  • Creamer

  • Mug

  • Syrup flavors

  • French Press

For the Food Addict:

  • Different seasonings (adobo, garlic salt, etc.…)

  • Variety of hot sauce

  • A mix of healthy and guilty pleasure snacks

  • Healthy microwavable meals (quinoa packets, protein oatmeal, etc.…)

  • Something homemade

For the Book Worm:

  • Amazon gift card

  • Creative book marks

  • A motivational book

  • A book in their favorite genre

  • A book for their season of life

  • Book darts

  • Book décor

  • A book box subscription

For the Creative:

  • Coloring book with colored pencils and a sharpener (don’t forget the sharpener)

  • Journal + multicolored pens

  • Stationary + stamps

  • Inspirational wall art/decor

  • Command hooks and strong tape to display art

For a Stranger:

  • Anything motivational (book or art)

  • A variety of snacks

  • Water enhancers

  • Activity books, brain teasers, or puzzles

  • Amazon Gift cards

  • Holiday decorations (Christmas lights, American flags, posters, mini Christmas trees, New Years poppers, Easter basket, etc.)

For the Mom/Dad:

  • Pictures of their child doing every day things

  • Child artwork + tape to hang up artwork

  • A book to record themselves reading

  • Create a care package for the parent back home

  • Coupon for a free babysitter for a night upon return

For the Gym Junkie:

  • A jump rope

  • Motivational Tank / Tee

  • Refillable water bottle (aluminum keeps water cold for a longer period of time)

  • Protein snacks

  • Water enhancers (Gatorade, Spark, Fizz sticks, crystal light, etc.…)

  • Running socks (something about deployments make you go through socks quicker)

  • Wireless/portable speaker

For the Christian:

  • A new bible / study bible

  • A bible study workbook

  • Bible highlighters + pen

  • Scripture art

  • Scripture memory note cards

For a Woman:

  • Face masks, spa-day type stuff

  • Nail polish, remover, nail clippers, file

  • Body spray

  • Light makeup (favorite eyeliner, chap stick,

  • Foot scrub

For a Man:

  • See any of the other categories...

  • Beef jerky (lol)

 

Care Package blog

Deployment - Take 4

This piece is Part 4 in a 4 Part Deployment Series covering my 4 deployment taskings in my Air Force Career.

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If you have been with me this far, then you know my family and I have been on a roller coaster for the last few years. I was tasked to deploy two different times, each time getting canceled for a variety of reasons. During this same time, David and I were brought together, then apart with TDY’s and his deployment, we lived through a miscarriage, then the birth of our rainbow baby, and then finally another deployment and cancelation.

What was weird about the last tasking was that I truly felt God had prepared my heart to leave.

He told me to be strong and courageous, for the Lord my God would be with me wherever I went. 

For reasons I cannot elaborate on, deployment 3 was canceled as quickly as I had accepted it. After a short amount of time basking in the cancellation (and trying to figure out what God really had in store for me), another deployment tasking came down – Deployment tasking #4.

Deployment tasking #3 and #4 were essentially the same tasking, just a few weeks apart and a little bit longer.

At this point, my mind was going a million miles an hour trying to decipher how I was truly feeling. I still believed this was what God wanted of me. He told me to be strong and courageous and somehow I just knew in my gut that I would be leaving my little family behind.

When I mentally accepted this tasking, I stopped telling people I was sad to leave and instead, I embraced this opportunity with excitement.

Why? Well, because God was sending me on a mission. His mission.

Be Strong and Courageous

Once the world around me became still, I began to wonder…

Am I in denial? 

Am I trying to hide the fact that this deployment is going to be hard?  

Am I naïve to think I am capable of deploying? 

Is the enemy trying to confuse me? 

Am I feeling ‘okay’ because I trust God or because I’m delusional? 

To say I was all over the place is an understatement. 

I still don't know the answer to any of those questions. I hope I trusted God. I hope that I felt excited about this deployment because God had a mission for me rather than being selfish about the positives of this deployment because there were definitely positives.

Glass Half Full

Let's be real for a second. This deployment had a lot of perks. It would mean I could sleep by myself with no kid hogging the bed. I could read an actual book, not a kindle version (have you tried reading an actual paper/hardback book near a 1-year-old?).

I could workout and get sexy! Or, as one of my coworkers say "redefine sexy".

And I could make some decent tax free money.

Eventually, whenever my mind would wonder to all the things I would miss, I would think of all of the positives instead. It may seem selfish, but it was the only way I could survive. I had to see the glass as half full. 

Two weeks after the official tasking came down, I was saying “see you later” to my family and hopping into a black passenger van for the airport.

It was time.

Blessing in Disguise

Looking back, there was definitely a reason or a perk for the same deployment getting canceled and turned back on. It gave me another month with my precious family.

The entire first year of Natalie's life, God had been preparing me to leave. He was teaching me how to give her back to Him. How to hold her with open hands and rely on Him to protect her. Finally, I accepted the call he had for me and in return, I received a blessing.

He gave me another month at home and in that month, I was able to see my baby girl take her first step.

How lucky am I?

Deployment - Take 3

This piece is Part 3 of a 4 Part Deployment Series covering my 4 deployment taskings in my Air Force Career.

Incase you haven't read the 2 previous posts, here is a quick recap.

Air Force Deployment Blog

I had been tasked to deploy two different times without actually deploying.  I was removed from my first deployment because the commanding officer wanted someone higher ranking. No big deal. Then, after moving to another country, finding out we are pregnant and then miscarrying, a second deployment tasking drops (remember, this one was a dream job).

I went on a short notice TDY (training) and on the very last day of training I found out I was pregnant. No more deployment. 

We had our precious Natalie and life was good, then two months shy of her first birthday I was notified that a third deployment had dropped... This time, I would leave 1 week after her first birthday. 

Thankfully, current Air Force Policy meant I was safe from deployments or trainings for a year after birth, but i never imagined they would task me right after my daughter turned 1. 

Words can not express the feelings I had about this deployment. No longer was the job a dream job, nor the location a “vacation” spot. To top it off, I would be missing 5 months of my baby girls life.

Deployment Blog

Life Is Not Fair

Why would God wait until she turns 1 to pull me away? Why didn't he let me go on the last tasking, rather than allowing me to get pregnant just to leave her behind? 

It didn't seem fair at all. Not to me and most definitely not to her. And my husband just returned from deployment a few months prior! But duty calls and I volunteered to wear the uniform, at least that’s what I keep reminding myself.

In my moment of desperation, I got to my knees and started praying. Regardless of my questions, I needed to accept the fact that God had called me away from my family.

I eventually accepted the mission I was being sent on, and then it happened...

A text message from my commander that read - Your deployment’s been canceled, thought you would want to know… Happy Holidays!

 
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Christmas Deployment Blog
 

This was the last message I was expecting to receive and I can't say that I was happy with the news. 

How did I get out of not 1, nor 2, but 3 deployments? All of which I feel like I had no control over. This roller coaster of emotions goes right through me.  Everyone starts celebrating that I don’t have to deploy and the only thing I can think about is how God had prepared my heart to leave.

He gave me a sign. I was meant to deploy. 

He ignited the flame inside me to get excited about this deployment, all for it to just get canceled.

I wasn’t happy about leaving my husband or infant daughter. The thought of everything I would be missing just made my heart ache. My eyes would tear up thinking about how she would crawl around the house calling for mum-mum and never find me. Or how she would cling to her caregivers at the CDC (child development center aka daycare) to get the comfort that she can't get from her mommy.

No mom wants to be replaced. But on the other hand, I felt this strong sense that God was sending me on a mission and that mission was now canceled.

The day I found out about deployment #3, God gave me the verse “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).

This was very much what I classify as a #Godmoment.

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I took this as a sign that God would be with me on my journey away from home, for the 5 months, completing whatever it was that he needed me to complete. So why would He give me this verse, just to yet again, remove this deployment opportunity? 

When this last deployment was canceled, I was still aware of the possibly of getting tasked again, but I didn’t really believe another tasking would drop - until another one did.

There were only a few weeks between deployment tasking #3 and #4. I knew that God had a mission for me, I just didn't know what that mission nor why I felt like I was being jerked around on this road called life. Nevertheless, I was ready for whatever would come my way.

Deployment Tasking #4 (okay, maybe like Deployment #3 take 2).

Deployment - Take 2

This piece is Part 2 in a 4 Part Deployment Series covering my 4 deployment taskings in my Air Force Career.


Although unexpected, the second deployment tasking was a dream deployment. It was the same location as the first tasking, but this time, the job was everything I had ever wanted. It was like a glorified party planner meets executive assistant for the Air Force, also known as Protocol.

Although the deployment was a few months away, I needed to leave right away for a training back in the states and was set to depart two months later.

 
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On my last day of training, I notice something seemed off so I took a pregnancy test and lo and behold two little pink lines showed up on a pregnancy test (more like 15 pregnancy tests).

 
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Y'all, I was in shock. You would think I would be excited, especially since I miscarried less than two months prior, but the first thing that went through my mind was heartache and confusion.

Why would God give me a dream deployment and then take it away in a matter of weeks?Especially, when two months prior, He called my first baby home... Why now? Why would He call my first baby home? 

I was angry. Not at the fact that I was pregnant, but at the fact that I would have to go home and tell everyone that I could no longer deploy.

I am going to take a bunny trail here and say that in the military, there’s a stigma that some women get out of deployments by getting pregnant. Right before I left for training, I foolishly told people that “I would never be one of "those people” and now I was one of “those people”.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted - Matthew 23:12 ESV

A Humbling Experience

The bible clearly tells us that when we exalt ourselves (glorify ourselves) we will be humbled. That, my friends is what God was doing. He saw me placing myself on a pedalstool. Rising above all the other ladies who have gotten out of deployments and reminded me who was in charge.

The month following the miscarriage, we did everything we could to get pregnant again. Not to toot my own horn, but everything was timed perfectly yet, nothing happened. The following month, we found out I was deploying, so no more "trying" to make a baby.

Again, God had other plans. All the charting or temping (check out the Fertility Awareness Method) couldn't get us pregnant when we wanted to and apparently, didn't help us when we decided to stop trying.

David and I were intentionally trying not to get pregnant and God decided it was time.

Are you picking up what im throwing down? We try for a baby, and nothing happens. We try for no baby and BAM two little lines on 15 different pregnancy tests remind me that the Big Man upstairs is in control.

In shock, I made my way back to England and tried to gather the courage to tell my husband, my commander and everyone else that I would not be deploying due to an unplanned/unexpected pregnancy.  Thankfully, the news was well received and the girl who went in my place was extremely excited to deploy.

Funny story - poor David was on an emotional roller coaster. One minute he is prepping for me to leave. The next minute (13 days later) I tell him hes going to be a dad!

His respone "You need to quit messing with my emotions".... romantic right?

Now, we fast forward to present day... Baby girl is 1.5 months shy of turning one and I get notified that the Air Force wants me to deploy again. Deployment tasking #3.

Lessons Learned

1) There is very little that you can actually control in your life. Realize it and embrace it. 

2) There is no good in pride. I was so prideful about who I was professionally that I allowed it to steal my joy when I found out I was pregnant. 

3) You might never understand the why. I don't know why I had to miscarry my first baby, nor why God blessed me with our baby when i finally had a job I wanted, but I know that all these pieces will fall into place and the picture will be revealed on the other side of heaven.