His retirement papers were literally ready to be executed this month. Instead of riding off into the sunset he was prepping to board a plane for the Middle East as part of a rapid response force to help quell the increasing tension in the region.
Across the US, stories just like this are being played out in thousands of homes as military families quickly send their loved ones off on no-notice deployments. Retirements will be put on hold, babies will be born and milestone events will happen – all without a clear return date for many deployed troops.
Some troops are leaving in as little as hours with others getting a few days or weeks to prepare. Forward deployed troops on non-combat missions have been rerouted to support actions in the Middle East.
While many of these units are rapid response teams, trained and prepared for exactly these situations, it doesn’t make it any easier for families left behind on the home front with little to no warning.
Military Spouses Band Together In Face of No-Notice Deployments
In the face of the upheaval a no-notice deployment brings, seasoned spouses and non-profit organizations have been rallying together to provide community and support to military families everywhere. From powerful messages going viral on Facebook to counseling support offers, the military spouse community is coming together with a singular focus.
Kellie Artis, Fort Bragg Army spouse and COO of MILLIE, shared her thoughts in a viral Facebook post that has been republished on Jo, My Gosh. She reflected on the impact these quick, unexpected troop movements is having on the Fayetteville community. Artis has seen groups of women, sitting silently with tension and worry evident in their interactions. She’s seen an increase in the number of soldiers in uniform running errands out in town, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
“Uncertainty is a given in this lifestyle, but it hits hard when it’s out of the blue and under such looming circumstances. There’s a painful tension between pride and apprehension; importance and fear.”
Seasoned Spouses Share Wisdom, Support as Community Copes with Traumatic Deployments
Artis has been in this same position during earlier troop surges.
“I remember sitting alone during one such deployment with my sister and 6-month-old daughter at a Fayetteville restaurant and our server came over to tell us our meal was taken care of by another patron,” she wrote. “She didn’t tell me who, but I knew. There was an older couple sitting in a corner, he with his Vietnam-era VFW cap on and she with sympathetic tears in her eyes. We barely exchanged words, I couldn’t without sobbing, but we didn’t have to. She squeezed my hand as we stopped by their table to thank them and that was all we needed to share. I’ll never forget that.”
Rapid and short-notice deployments are not limited to US Army units. Many USMC spouses have faced, and are facing, similar situations.
A USMC spouse who wished to remain anonymous shared how unprepared and overwhelmed she was for deployment orders that went through in under a day.
“You always heard how you can get deployed less than 24 hours, it really does happen,” she shared. “The timing wasn’t great. Our children always pick where they want to go for dinner on their birthday. Our youngest had picked where he wanted to eat that night and we had to tell them the news their dad was leaving the next day for deployment.”
However, she shared advice that got her family through this no-notice deployment.
“Things we had planned as a family and vacations got canceled, but we made other plans to look forward to each month to make the time pass.”
She advised picking one big thing to do with your family every month. It helped her to focus on something good and made the time pass more quickly. Having a busy schedule for the kids, with sports and Scouts, also helped her to focus on the present.
Military Spouses Rely on Each Other for Support, Assistance
When she found out her husband was deploying, another anonymous USMC Infantry spouse was weeks away from giving birth after a challenging pregnancy when her husband told her about his upcoming deployment. While it wasn’t a few hours turnaround time, it was still a shock during an already tumultuous moment in their family.
Luckily, his unit allowed him a little bit of flexible time to support his spouse. He was able to be there for his child’s birth and early weeks. However, the next time he will see her will be when she is over 6 months old.
At first, this USMC Infantry spouse was unsure of how she would manage. But her spouse community stepped into the gap, providing support and encouragement when she needed it most.
“I didn’t know how I was going too, but again, you adapt,” she explained. “We truly are stronger and more capable than we think. The (spouses) around me had a huge impact on getting through this. They are amazing. They get groceries for me or just watch my toddler sometimes.”
Having a community to support her allowed this Infantry spouse to survive and thrive during an unexpected deployment.
“The only way to cope is to find a support system,” she said. “If you don’t have a family, find other military moms. It’s key.”
Ways to Help Military Families Right Now
If your military community is impacted by the recent and on-going rapid deployments, it’s important to connect with each other and show support. Even if your family isn’t directly impacted, you likely know someone who is in the think of the whirlwind.
Use these ideas to “keep on, keepin’ on” as one spouse said:
- Swap babysitting duties so everyone can run errands, exercise or simply have a minute to think
- Meal prep together because many hands make light work
- Set up regular play dates for children
- Offer to help each other with chores, cooking, child care
- Carpool for school drop off and pick up, sports and scouts
- Call, text or email just to check-in
- Make a meal for a family in the middle of prepping for deployment
The most important way that you can show up for your military family and community is to simply be there and be ready to listen without judgment.
If you need someone to talk to, MilitaryOneSource has a hotline. You can call them, 24/7 at 800-342-9647.