On the Regarding War blog, soldiers, veterans, and journalists will share their stories from Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones. It will feature personal stories and opinions from those who have first-hand knowledge of past and current conflicts. Those at home directly affected by a family member serving in the military will also contribute. The blog is meant to be a place where ideas are exchanged and experiences are related in an effort to gain a better understanding of the realities and effects of war. Share your thoughts, raise a question, and join the conversation by leaving comments on the posts.
I recently received an email from someone telling me about a mutual friend's current deployment. This friend has already been gone for six months, which is typically how long a doctor serving in the military, like my husband, Craig, deploys at any one time.
"These are not short deployments," she added at the end of the email. While she didn't say it, I knew she wanted to add "like Craig's."
I tried not to take it personally. I know she didn't mean it maliciously. But I admit it hit me just a little below the belt. I've heard the "Oh, what a nice, short deployment" comment one too many times.
My husband has been deployed a total of 19 months in the past five years. The months have not been consecutive. His first deployment was six months; the next four were four, three, three, and three months, respectively.
We were stationed at Fort Hood for four years. During our time there, we were in the crux of OIF and OEF. The 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Division (based at Ft. Hood at the time) were going for rotations lasting, in some cases, as long as 15 to 18 months. So when my husband would go for six months, or on a three or a four monther, I tried to keep my head down and my mouth shut. Certainly, I wasn't about to complain or lament to these spouses about my deployment. And they made it pretty darn clear that they didn't want to hear it.
But as time went on, I began to resent it when people would say, "Oh, you're lucky he's only gone for such a short time." I know it's all relative. But there I would be, almost apologizing to people because, with his particular unit, his deployment rotations lasted, on average, "only" three to four months.
Did I consider it lucky? Not really. I don't consider any person deployed to a war zone, away from their family from any amount of time, lucky. If I had a dollar for every time I was told how lucky I was that his deployments were short, I'd be writing this from my vacation home in Tahiti.
Sometimes I would be on the receiving end of jokes. "Was that a deployment or a vacation?" Others would tell us that doctors "don't have real deployments." I try to be a good sport about it, really, I do, but the comments and jokes begin to sting after a while.
The war has been long. It's taking its toll on everyone. So, as spouses, let's try not to "deployment one-up" each other. Instead, let's have sympathy when appropriate and support each other always, regardless of our deployment status.
Freelance writer, pursuing a Master's in Counseling, and military spouse
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