We knew it was coming. We dreaded it. Yet we were proud of our son. For months I tried not to think about it and didn’t know how I would react to the news of the actual deployment date. Even though I wrote a book called The Patriot Parent and still believe every word, it was a real test of patriotism when it was my son going into a war zone.
When he called us to say he had a date, I was grateful that Dad was on the phone. Tears rained down my face and I could not speak for several minutes. It was finally upon us.
The next few weeks he was busy and had no real time for us. That was okay. He needed to spend the time with his wife and daughter. He needed to put his affairs in order–financially, emotionally, and at home.
We did have the opportunity to visit him and the family. It was a wonderful weekend with them–laughed a lot and teased and pretended it was just another visit. That was what he needed us to do. But when we left to go home, I certainly did hold the hug a little longer and tighter than normal! I am sure he forgave me for that.
As I found out, deployment is hard on him too–not just us. Go figure. Members of the military, before deployment, need to focus on what lies ahead of them. They do not need to “make things right” with family members or be heckled by overprotective parents’ or wives’ fears. They need the space to do whatever it takes to prepare themselves–whether it be time spent alone or building that deck that they have been planning for years.
They need love and support and encouragement. It truly is all about them…and not us. They usually tend to begin to separate emotionally from family and friends–so if you are facing a loved one’s deployment, don’t take any of that personally.
We were blessed in that our son really did not pull away from us–except he was not as diligent at returning calls or texts. His dad and I tried to speak to him as often as we normally did, although it was hard not to call or text every day before he left. During our last phone call before he reported for duty I could hear the strain in his voice. Now, I realized, was not the time to tell him how much we were going to miss him or how afraid we were for him. Instead I told him funny stories of things that happened to us on a recent trip and I could hear his voice relaxing through the laughter.
The day he was to report was very emotional for me and his dad. When I least expected it, a tear would trickle down. My husband commented that we had to stop it, but I said no. In fact I believe that the release of emotion is essential for making it through our son’s deployment. We agreed to keep it between us and to never let him see it.
Despite our fears, we knew he would be prepared militarily. It was also true that he was ready emotionally and psychologically–in large part thanks to his wonderful and supportive wife. That helped us enormously.
He is a good man, loving husband and father, and a proud American who has chosen to protect and defend our country. We are so proud of him and grateful to him as we await his return home to us.
(note: I am going to blog my feelings about this episode in our lives, partly to help others and partly to help me deal with my feelings. If anyone wants to share their stories, advice and thoughts I am very happy to receive them..Pat)