Your First Deployment: How to Thrive {Not Just Survive}

deployment4I washed my hardwood floors today. A monumental task in this current season of my life, but I managed it. And as the smell of Murphy’s Cleaning Oil was wafting through my house, I found myself rushed back to a life, that now seems very far away, full of fear, anticipation, pain, and waiting.

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My first deployment was, as it is for many, thankfully my last. This, however, in no way lessened the severity of it. As any Veteran military wife will tell you, each deployment holds it’s own challenges, whether it is your first or your seventh. The rumors leading up to this particular deployment had been rushing around the Battalion for months; it was not a surprise. When the orders officially came, I braced myself for the onset, fully aware that our lives were about to dramatically change.

And so the waiting began. I washed my floors.

We talked, we planned, we prayed – he started to shut down… I cried and washed my floors.

We held each other; he reassured me of his love that stretches far beyond any ocean that could separate us. I told him it would be fine. We would be fine, he would be fine; everything would be fine… I washed my floors.

He started packing, spent nights standing in our baby’s doorway watching her sleep… took his toothbrush. I clung to my last shred of composure and washed my floors.

He left… taking with him the very air in my lungs. And I froze.

There are no words that could adequately depict what happens in that moment, the moment your world gets on a plane and leaves you. Hollow. My body was there, clinging to our 7-month-old. Pain coursed through my veins as I bit viciously down on my bottom lip to keep the tears from escaping, which told me I was still alive. But that was all I could feel. The air on my skin, the ground under my feet – everything was lost in that moment; I couldn’t feel anything… except a strong, thudding ache that began in my toes and slowly ran the course of my body. I felt like the life had just been sucked from my soul.

I can’t breathe. My best friend whispers, “Just breathe.” She knows… she’s been here. Just breathe. 

Tears fill my eyes even now as I write this. Not for my pain, thank God it’s over and I don’t ever have to feel it again. But for the pain of a heart that’s ever felt this way, I grieve.

deployment5It became my mantra as I turned with my loved ones and my sweet baby girl and we got in the car and drove away. Just breathe. As I spent that first night away from him, not the first… we had spent many apart, but never with him on his way to another country for who knows how long…. just breathe. As the tears came, because no one can hold them back forever, just breathe. As a day passed, then a week, a month… six months… just breathe. On lonely summer nights, in the middle of a crowd, on our baby girl’s 1st birthday, still autumn afternoons, Christmas… just breathe. My floors got a lot of attention that year.

I know our little family was incredibly blessed to have a short deployment, a safe deployment, and one that didn’t cause our baby girl any pain. She found a picture recently of her daddy in his ‘funny clothes’ (uniform) holding her in an airport and asked why – she has no idea. I find myself stunned by how much our life has changed in just three short years. At the time it felt as though it would never end… but it did. He returned safe and sound, thank you Jesus, and at long last my soul was filled with life and joy and I found myself breathing without the pain – I was whole again.

I can’t reflect on that time in our lives without that sinking feeling threatening to overtake me again – it’s like talking about your delivery less than a week after the baby is born. But, just like labor, I found the experience was worth the pain. And do you know what else I’ve discovered? If given the choice to relive that time in my life, I would do it again.

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Deployment strengthened three relationships in my life: with my husband, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and yes, with myself. I met myself during deployment. Through the grace of my ever-present, ever-faithful God, I grew into myself during deployment. Those 10 months were but a blip on the screen of my life when measured in time, yet God used that season to make me into the woman only he knew I had the potential to be. That’s why I thrived. Anyone can survive a deployment. It’s miserable and you’ll hate it, but it won’t kill you. It also won’t change you… unless you let it.

Here are a few things I learned in deployment that taught me to seize the opportunities for growth regardless of the pain:

Live for the big picture, not the moment.
I know we so often hear the opposite, but for a wife who’s husband is on the other side of the world, the ‘moment’ is not always worth living for. Again with the labor analogy, when you’re pushing out a baby the ‘moment’ isn’t the incentive you draw your strength from, the end result is. On any given day in those 10 months, the ‘moment’ could find me curled up with my baby, holding back the tears, aching for the time to rush by. That ‘moment’ took me to church, parties and weddings alone, found me making dinner for one, and saw me overreact to my nervous fears by grasping my pepper-spray and ‘clearing’ every room and closet after arriving at our quiet, empty house.

The big picture, on the other hand, offered hope. He would come home, we would pick our lives back up where they left off, and go on like it never happened. And I was right on all counts but one – we could never pretend it didn’t happen, it had changed us both for the better in so many ways.

Set achievable goals that you want to accomplish, and re-structure your life around them.
deployment6After dropping him off at the airport, there was no ‘going back to normal life’ for us. Everything had changed. So, instead of trying to make it feel the same way it used to despite the gaping hole that had just lodged it’s way in my world, I went for something completely different. Before deployment, I had a conversation with a very wise military wife and service member herself, my cousin Sarah. She and her husband had experienced multiple deployments in varied circumstances (she deployed, he stayed home; he deployed she stayed home; both deployed to separate bases, etc.). She advised making goals, both personally and as a couple, to help the time go faster. She said that having something to work on together, albeit from opposite ends of the earth, would help hold your marriage together and keep you close. The personal goals also helped make the days go by faster, and gave them a purpose. Instead of making my full-time occupation waiting for my life to start back up again, I made achieving my goals my first priority and waiting became more of a hobby.

Embrace your support system and accept help.
This one was especially hard for me. I have an amazing support system, and was blessed enough to be within 20 minutes of the majority of my family during deployment. But asking for and accepting help is hard for me. I found myself putting on a brave face and, more often than not, refusing the offers for company, a babysitter, or a helping hand. It wasn’t until a few months in that I realized if I kept saying no, eventually they would stop asking, and every time they asked I felt a little less alone. So I started saying ‘yes’. Overnights, childcare, dinner for no reason – their thoughtfulness helped carry me through what those middle months which, in many ways, is the hardest part.

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“Nothing lasts forever,” my mom used to say to me as a child when I would cry over something that would no doubt be a non-issue the next day. To one degree or another she told me that very same thing nearly every day during deployment, and she was right. He came home. It ended. It’s in the past now. But what I didn’t realize at the time was how, even though it still fills me with dread to recall those days, they were a precious gift. It grew our marriage, drew me closer to the Lord, gave me a sweet season with my baby girl that will always be near and dear to my heart, and introduced me to myself. That season of our lives is over now – my husband can grow a beard, get the haircut he wants, and I haven’t washed anything printed in that rough, worn camouflage fabric for months. And it’s sweet. But I’ll always be thankful for the lessons we learned, together and apart, during that time.

No matter where you are in your own journey, I hope these thoughts bring you comfort, peace and hope.

Comfort because you are not alone: even if we never meet our souls are tangled in a bond that is forged in the fires of like experience. Peace because I survived, and you will too – no matter the pain you might feel in the moment, it is but a glimpse of your journey. And hope – hope that God can, and will if you let him, use this time in your life to grow you in ways you never had dreamed; to make you stronger in so many ways. So don’t settle for just getting by; thrive. And soon it will be you telling your own story to bring comfort, peace and hope to the lives within your reach.

To all military men and women; to their wives, husbands, children, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and loved ones: thank you for your service! We are blessed to live in the Land of the Free because of the Brave. You are forever in our thoughts, our hearts, and our prayers.

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❤ Jasmine


Update: Like this post? Check out Part 2:

Post-Deployment: What No One Tells You {And You Need To Know}

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Special thanks to Kalyn Griffin for the beautiful photos!


Special thanks to Noel Small Photography for the incredible reunion photos and for her generosity giving her time and resources to photograph our reunion! See more of her work at noelsmallphotography.com

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35 thoughts on “Your First Deployment: How to Thrive {Not Just Survive}

  1. As an Army wife when I saw your post I had to come check it out! We are on the verge of retirement—3ish weeks away from his return from overseas and on leave for 90 days. Then he will be officially retired. I wish I had had a post like yours when we had our first deployment back in the day. This can be so helpful to many! Have you read the boo “Wife of a Soldier, Journey of Faith?” It was written by a lady who became a dear friend of mine. It was so helpful to me Clay’s second deployment in Iraq.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! Congratulations!! I’m so glad to hear that! I haven’t heard of that book, but it sounds so good! It truly is a journey of faith. Thank you, and your husband and kiddos, for your service! I am so excited for you to transition into this new season. ❤

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  2. Wow – thanks for sharing this. My husband and I are both Navy veterans and we met at Rosy Roads, Puerto Rico a million years ago! I know when I got out – he still had about a year left on his enlistment and was deployed right after we got married… that was tough – quite challenging – but you are pressing in and realizing your “support system” is half the battle! Blessings!

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  3. Pingback: A Daddy’s Heart {A Father’s Day Tribute} | The Mama Diaries

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was both well written and soulful. My husband is currently deployed and I’m finding it harder than I expected. When we talk, he seems to be in work mode 24-7, so it’s like our relationship is on pause. That is what is hardest for me. Fortunately, he will be home in time for the holidays. I don’t think I could do another Thanksgiving without him!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Victoria,

      Be encouraged! You’re doing it! And I’m sure you are walking this road with grace and bravery.

      My husband was constantly in work mode – our phone calls were harder than going without hearing his voice. It sounded like him, but it wasn’t, and it ripped my heart out.

      So we emailed; some days I got a line, others I felt like I had caught a glimpse of the old him, but I was able to support him and love him and encourage him and when he came home he said it had been the biggest help.

      I am so happy to hear you will be getting him home soon! But I know, whether it’s day 1 or 100, the road is still a rough one to travel.

      Be strong and finish well! We are so proud of you!

      Stay in touch and remember, you are not alone! ❤️

      Like

  5. This has truly been the BEST article I have read yet about “surviving deployment”. My husband just got orders to be deployed in July 2016. Although it is an entire year away, it has been totally encompassing my mind non- stop since he told me a few days ago. This is his first deployment and he will not be going to an active war zone but that does not excuse the fact that we will still be separated for a year. We made it through his basic training and AIT together and came out stronger after those 6 months; but when I think that this deployment will be that, times 2, I get a pit in my stomach. Thank you for writing with such class and dignity. Your faith definitely shines through. Your words were encouraging, indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Maxine,

      Be encouraged! I remember clearly that ugly pit in my stomach, the pain in my heart; the struggle to breathe. But I also know the Truth: that the same Savior who laid down His life for me, carried me through this difficult journey that you find yourself on…. And He will do the same for you!

      Your strength and grace during this time will be your greatest testimony! You’re right, deployment is a whole new ballgame, but the basic principles are the same. Approach it as you prepare, as a challenge in your relationship with the ability to grow closer together. As a couple, set goals and begin working towards them. This will give you a common ground when everything in your lives is no longer the same.

      Prepare and fortify yourselves, but don’t spend the next several months in that constant state of impending doom. Enjoy your time; treasure it! Allow yourselves to love and grow closer and achieve your goals now. This season may keep you apart for a year, but it will also grow you closer. Don’t spend the year leading up to it dreading this growth!

      I am inspired by your strength and your courage! I know you will make it through this journey a woman of grace and bravery.

      Stay in touch and remember, you are not alone! ❤️

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  6. Whew. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story. I am one month into our first year long deployment that will also, thank God, be his last. Every word you wrote above, I either identify with or hope to (the promise that God will use this time for our good! I’m clinging to that!) sooner or later. He, Lord willing will get to come home in December for our babies birth, but saying goodbye again…I can’t breath at all thinking about it. We have a 3 year old son and in many ways he hasn’t skipped a beat, but in others, this single month has affected him so much. I have been praying, practically begging God to please redeem this time- for His glory, for our good and for the benefit of others. I know so many spouses have done this, gone through this pain and heartache, but I appreciate your words especially. We might be strangers, yes, but like you said, we are bonded by these experiences and you have lived to tell the tale! Thank you again- I rejoice that your military journey is over and you get to experience “sweet, normal life” again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Emily, you are not alone! You may feel as though you are isolated in this experience, but by taking the first brave steps on this journey you have joined a sisterhood of women just like you. You will be in my prayers as you continue down this road! It still makes my heart ache to remember the long, lonely nights and the days full of trying to relate our daily experiences and milestones to someone a half a world away. But be encouraged! We survived and you will too, and, if you embrace it, will look back on this season as the time in your life you fell in love with your Savior in a beautiful, new and fresh way.

      My husband and I were just discussing transitioning our 13 month old into a new car seat yesterday, when he had to ask when I transitioned our first baby into her first big girl seat. This little things continue to pop up, even 3 years later. But even in the bittersweet memories there is joy. There is nothing – NOTHING! – as sweet as the joy of reunion. Those precious moments when we were finally reunited as a little family are forever engraved on my soul; and I will treasure it – and the journey that led us there – for the rest of my life.

      Don’t lose heart – you are a woman of strength and bravery! You were chosen, handpicked by God, to carry your family through this time. To support your husband as he serves, to be the light and joy in your family, to keep your little one happy and thriving and close to his Daddy. And to cling to your Lord as the one and only support that can truly carry you this time.

      I am inspired by your courage and will continue to pray for you to feel the joy and grace and strength God has for you!

      Stay in touch and remember that you are not alone. ❤️

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing this. My boyfriend just left for a 10 month deployment yesterday and watching him walk away was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I’m hoping this next year flies by.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Kacey, I am so glad that this helped. You are embarking on a journey, and you’ve already past the worst part (the waiting for it to begin!). I know if you are able to keep your focus you will look back on this experience as a time of growth. You are not alone! You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you walk this road. ❤

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  8. Pingback: Post-Deployment: What No One Tells You {and you need to know} | The Mama Diaries

  9. I have no words for how much this article means to me. I’ve read it probably 10 times and it still brings me to tears every time. The love of my life is currently at combat training for the Marine Corps and missed Christmas, our anniversary, and New Years. I have spent 10 days with him total in the last 4 months, and we currently cannot write or talk on the phone. I cry every single day. I’m trying so hard to use this as a time to grow and flourish on my own but it’s much harder than I ever could’ve imagined. But it’s so comforting to read things like this from other women who have been through it. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It means more to me than I can express. My heart is so touched.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Amanda,
      My heart aches for you as you begin this journey, but in the midst of your pain I know there is hope! You have a wonderful opportunity before you, and although it will bring its own challenges, I know you will grow to appreciate this season.
      Keep your eyes on your Savior, not the calendar, and trust that He has a perfect plan for your time.
      As you set your goals and begin to make plans, keep in mind that it will begin to make the time go faster and give you incentive for completing the days and weeks, not just the months.
      Most importantly, remember that you are not alone! There are so many others who have walked this road before you, and although it never gets easier, the burden does get lighter to bear.

      So be encouraged! For every tear there will be a sweet reunion kiss and it will come sooner than you think.

      You are close to my heart and in my prayers! Stay in touch ❤️

      Like

  10. I am a young, newlywed spouse of a Marine who will soon be going overseas on his first deployment and I am terrified. Normally I avoid articles about deployment because they make me sad, but I appreciated yours greatly, and it encouraged me. I know that I can get through this with God’s help.
    Thank you for writing such a truthful, encouraging, and uplifting article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Rebekah, I am so glad you found us! I know the waiting is so hard; the anticipation is sometimes more difficult then the actual deployment! But with God’s strength you can and will make it through the this new season and be grateful for the experience. My thoughts and prayers are with you both! You are not alone in this journey – connect yourself to other sisters in Christ and keep your eyes on your Savior! I know you can do this. ❤ Stay in touch!

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  11. Hi there Jasmine!
    I’m hoping that this isn’t a duplicate post…(I tried to comment earlier and it didn’t seem to publish it correctly.)
    I am a young wife to a Marine who is being deployed this spring. I have been dreading it every day, and I just wanted you to know that this is the best article I’ve read about deployment. It actually made me feel stronger and more encouraged, instead of making me want to dissolve into tears.
    I know I’ll get through it with God’s help, but it’s really hard to think about it at present.
    Thank you so much for your encouraging message.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My husband leaves in June for his first deployment and obviously my first time going through one. What are some examples of goals that you and your husband did together while he was gone? I love that idea! Willing to go anything to make this just a tiny bit better. My family is 26 hours away and im staying here. Scared to death. He is my best friend and helps me do everything. Knowing I’ll be here left alone to do it all myself is what scares me the most. We are a few months away and it’s getting more real as the days go by. Thank you for this! Loved your article!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Megan, I understand your fear! My husband and I are so close that it was like losing my lover, best friend, partner in crime, and teammate all at once. But we did get through it, and you will too.

      Some of the goals we set were financial. We wanted to save up for a few things and utilize our deployment salary in the best possible way.

      We also set personal goals. We both wanted to achieve new things in our work out routines so we set goals and it gave us something to talk about and cheer each other on.

      We also made a running list of things to do when he got home. For instance, we new we wanted to celebrate Christmas, even though it was February, so I kept lights up and his presents wrapped. We also made a list of places to go (Disney, Cape Cod, etc) and we’d research it together. It gave us something to talk about that brought hope instead of despair, and wasn’t focusing on the here and now, rather the end of the trial.

      I hope this helps you in your journey! Stay strong and keep your eyes on Jesus and you will do things you never dreamed possible!!

      ❤️Jasmine

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  13. Of hundreds of things I’ve read so far preparing for and dealing with his first deployment, this is the most honest, real, raw, and helpful I’ve found. I am bawling my eyes out- happy and sad tears. This article is amazing. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you so so much for this. I got married to my husband two years ago. He is a marine and for now we’ve been stationed where he doesn’t deploy. but in two months we go back to his old unit where he will most likely deploy in the spring. i am scared. i lie in bed while he’s sleeping scared terrified and worried. I know Jesus is with me and will always be and I will go stronger. But i am dreading this time. I know i will be a mess. I am scared. 😦 and reading this post made me sob. yes. nothing lasts forever. we’ll see what the journey lies ahead….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sweet Lesley,
      Don’t be scared. Life is far too short to spend it in fear. Deployment is like childbirth: you can spend your life living in fear of the pain it will bring, but that will only keep you from experiencing the amazing joy that results from it. You are a woman of strength, a child of God. Don’t give the enemy the victory of keeping you paralyzed by dreading something that may not come to pass. It may, and when it does, God’s strength will be there for you then. But you have not been given the grace to endure tomorrow’s problems, only today’s. You and your husband are in my prayers – stay strong and keep your eyes on Jesus! He will never leave you or fail you. ❤

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  16. Thank you so much for this encouragement, My husband and I got married in April of 2016 and he was deployed for the first time in December of 2016. I’m so grateful for the advice such as this from women who have been in my shoes, Its what helps me get through each day!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I totally needed to read this💗Cried my eyes out the entire time. My husband is starting training next month for a deployment starting in October. I’m terrified, nervous, & anxious as it’s our first one and we have a 2 month old baby girl. Thank you for this, I will re-read it a million times I’m sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Brittany,
      My heart aches for you as I know this season can be so hard. Keep your eyes on the goal and remember you are not alone. Even when you’re ‘alone’, you’re not alone. Treasure this time; don’t spend it worrying about the future or things you can’t change. When the days seem to crawl, thank God for slowing the clock and enjoy every second. And when they fly, think of how wonderful it will be to have them fly on the other end of things when you’re counting down. For every goodbye, picture your hello. For every moment he misses, look forward to all the ones you will share. You CAN do this, and you can do it well. Stay strong and stay brave. We believe in you! ❤

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  18. Pingback: Your First Reunion: How To Survive Reintegration | The Mama Diaries

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