Much of the focus of “surviving deployment” focuses on the spouses that are left behind, but what about the soldier who is heading out to active duty? Being separated from friends and family affects everyone, not just those left behind. While your focus may be more on your active duty tasks, here are some tips that can help you survive the separation while you are deployed.
1. Make Communication a Priority
When you’re overseas, it’s easy to get caught up in the role and responsibility of being a soldier. However, you’re going to have to come home to your spouse, significant other, parents or children. You must do what you can in the time that you have for communication to build those relationships. This requires communication. Make communication a priority while you are deployed, and you will reap the benefit of strong relationships when you return home.
When you have the opportunity to communicate, do so lovingly, even if your job on the field is filled with frustration. Remind yourself that your loved ones are not the cause of that.
2. Give Your Family Space to Grow
Many things are going to happen while you are overseas. Children will get older. Financial decisions will need to be made. Your significant other will have to make decisions that affect the course of your family for years to come. If those left behind feel that they need to check in with you for every little decision, this could be problematic.
Give your family room to grow, and give them the information they need to take care of the home front while you are gone. Items like usernames, account numbers and passwords are vital. Don’t forget to file the necessary legal documents, including power of attorney, that give those you leave behind the permission to take care of things on the home front while you are gone.
3. Stay Healthy
Before deploying and while you are on the field, make sure you take care of your body as much as you can. Prior to leaving, exercise and eat well so that your body is prepared for the stress of combat. While on the field, limit alcohol consumption, try to get as much sleep as possible and maintain exercise when your duties are not giving you enough. You want to return home healthy if at all possible, and you want to be well prepared for the challenges your body is about to face.
4. Take Care of Your Spirit
If you are a religious individual, continue to pursue your religious exercises while on deployment. If you are not religious, consider meditation or some other spiritual exercise. A healthy person requires not only a healthy body, but also a healthy mind and soul. Carve out time during your off duty hours for these types of activities.
5. Tap Into Resources Before You Leave
Before you head out on deployment, make sure those you leave behind have connected with the resources available for military families. Sometimes it takes someone who has walked the deployment path before to truly understand what another is going through, and you can make sure those resources are available by making the connections before you leave.
6. Avoid the “What If” Game
If you’ve been in the military long enough, you’ve heard stories of unfaithful spouses or tragedies befalling children while their parent was overseas. Yes, bad things can happen back home, but don’t fall victim to the “what if” game. Doing so will only hurt your ability to do your job and damage the trust you have in your loved ones. Trust that those you love are happy and healthy, unless you hear otherwise.
Deployment is hard on everyone involved, but it’s one of the realities of being a soldier. By knowing what’s ahead of you, taking the time to focus on your relationship and taking care of yourself while deployed, you will be able to come through this stronger and ready to embrace home and civilian life again.