When a soldier deploys the family is usually told about how long that deployment is going to be. The family member knows that it might not always be that amount of time. It could be shorter or it could be longer. We always hope for shorter, but we have to plan for longer. But what happens when your deployment gets extended a few months and a 9 month deployment turns in a 12 month or a 12 month turns into a 15 month? How do you really handle the extra months added onto an already long deployment?
Back in 2006 my husband deployed for the first time. We were told the deployment would be 12 months. After a few months we were told it would be 9 months, which was nice. However that then got changed back to 12. There were rumors that it would be changed to 14 or 15 months and at the time I refused to believe them. I didn’t believe it was possible they would do that to us and if they did I wasn’t sure I could handle it. Sadly that is exactly what happened. We were told that the deployment would be 14 months and maybe even 15. It ended up being about 14 months and 3 weeks by the time he got home.
This was a very hard thing for us wives to take. It felt like we were in an “only two more months to go” stage for the whole deployment. If you have been through a deployment you know how hard the last few months can be and we had to stay in that stage for a while. It was really frustrating. How did I handle it? How was I able to make it thought?
1) Get together with friends who are also going through it– When we heard the news of the last extension, we all got together and let the kids play and tried to process it all. It was hard but it was nice to know we were not alone.
2) Stay super busy-We knew that if we wanted the time to pass we had to stay super busy. We planned playdates and I tried to go to as many different events as I could. Even if I knew they would be hard to go to with two little boys. I wanted to have my calendar full. It is always important to stay busy during deployments, but especially so in those added months that come with a deployment extension,
3) Remember that nothing last forever and deployments do end- It is hard when it feels like something horrible is never going to end, but it will. I would remind myself of this over and over and that the only thing keeping us from each other were days on a calendar. Days that will pass and days we will be able to get through.
In the two deployments since our first I have always prayed hard that we never had to experience another extension. I would rather be told upfront that he would be gone for 15 months than to be told 9-12 and have that change. It is an emotional thing, but having them gone longer than you expect is not fun. Having them gone over a year was the worst. He missed two birthdays, two Halloweens, two starts of the school year. It was a difficult experience for us but I have learned from it and if it did happen again, I hope I would be more prepared.