I was planning on continuing Marital Investment Strategies today; however, events over the weekend have my mind and heart on a different topic: the impact of military deployment on families.
I attended the birthday party of a friends kid on Saturday. My friend is home for two weeks on R&R from Afghanistan. I have five or six friends currently deployed, and many other acquaintances or clients who are deployed or have a spouse deployed. This is the third deployment for my friend (I’m going to call him Bob). Sometimes as we talked, it sounded like each deployment got easier because he and his family had been through it before and knew more of what to expect. But at other times as we talked, it was apparent that each time it also gets harder. The year-long separations accumulate and weigh heavier on the family each time. The personal effects of repeated exposure to combat add up. As I interviewed Bob for an upcoming Live The Life Radio show (stay tuned for more detail next month) several things stuck out to me:
1: No matter how many soldiers and spouses I talk with, I will never fully grasp how hard the soldier’s job is, and how much of a toll it takes on the soldier and their family. I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices they and their families all make to serve our country.
2: The needs of the soldier and his or her family don’t always fit into my “normal” ideas about healthy family relationships. For example, I am an advocate for openness and free communication in marriage. For a soldier who has shut down most of their tender emotional side during the deployment, this probably is not possible or wise when they first return home. The picture I got from Bob was of a soldier who’s body and mind are wired and primed to look for possible threats and to respond instantly. At home this conditioning can quickly escalate a simple misunderstanding or slight disagreement into an intense fight in a matter of seconds. Bob recommends letting issues or offenses go without response during R&R and the first several weeks or month after returning home from deployment. He says it’s not worth the risk of escalating a little thing into a huge thing.
3: Every soldier’s and every family’s experiences and needs are unique. Every time I talk with a soldier, spouse, or child I find some parts of their story that fit the map that I have developed in my mind of what military life and deployment are like. However, I ALWAYS find parts of their story that do not fit my map and require me to revise my ideas about the challenges they face and how to deal with them in healthy productive ways.
4: I was struck by his desire to be the man who God created him to be, the challenges to grow in that direction while in a combat zone, and his commitment to make quite time aside with God a priority on R&R and after deployment. He says that during deployment, everything is reduced to the basics and he finds it difficult to do more than hold onto what he had spiritually before deployment. Alone time plays a huge role in Bob’s shift from an identity almost entirely tied to his job as soldier, to a more global identity. Bob says he can’t be the man, husband, father, or friend he wants to be at home, with out considerable time alone with God.
As I think of Bob and the myriads of other soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors who sacrifice so much for our country, I am awed, and find it difficult to express my respect to these men, women and their families.
Do you have a friend or loved one who is living the life they were created for amidst military deployments? Tell us about your hero in the comment box below.