Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Facing a new challenge

We've held out as long as we can and the time has come. Either Chris finds a job soon or we are looking at another deployment. When you are facing the fact that either you let your husband go back and fight for his country - only this time on a voluntary basis - or you lose your house, it is a huge blow. I have however, learned a few things from the last deployment. For those who have friends or loved ones facing a deployment, here are a few tips to help them get through it.

1. Be positive and upbeat. The adage, "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all" is extremely important to follow here. We don't need to hear your doomsday advice. We don't need you to tell us, our loved one might now come home and is going to miss birthdays, anniversary's and other assorted milestones. Trust me, we know our spouse or loved one will be gone. It will make it a little bittersweet to go through it without them, but we will face it nonetheless - having you tell us doesn't make it easier.

2. Just because you read it in the newspaper, online or see it on TV does not mean you need to share it with a soldier/sailor's family members. Yes, you may mean well, however, if anything bad has happened to that soldier or sailor, the military will let them know as quickly as possible. When we know something we will share it with you, until them, please don't call us and tell us or send us bad news via e-mail. It only upsets and worries us and honestly, we have enough to deal with already without additional stress like that.

3. If you see we looked overstressed or need some help, then please offer to help us out. We may not be able to ask for help. Some people are raised to take care of their problems on their own. Yes, it robs others of the joy of helping someone in need out, but that isn't how they see it. So while a spouse of a deployed sailor/soldier may not tell you they need a break, odds are, by the half way marker, they are in need of some help. So bring over a meal, come pick up their children, or just take them to a movie if you are a friend and they don't need a babysitter.

4. War movies are not a good idea. The movie Dear John came out while Chris was deployed in 2009. My best friend knew, without me telling her it was not a good idea for me to watch that movie. The sappy movies where someone falls in love with a soldier, or it's about war - it's just not a good idea for some. You will know if this applies to your friend or loved one, go with your instincts, if you think it might not be a good suggestion - go with your gut.

5. Card and warm wishes are always welcome! Especially lots of hugs for kiddos whose parent is currently away. My Aunt Nina and Uncle Ed were very good about doing that with Lizzie and Beka while Chris was gone. They gave lots of hugs and kisses and were great with my monkeys. While they couldn't offer to babysit, because they both work, it helped out more than they knew. If you see something cute of funny a child might like, then send it if possible. Laughter is sometimes the best medicine to help a family through a tough time.

6. If you see us spiralling downward, do not hint around. If the person you are worried about is in a deep depression, hints about medication will be lost on them. Sit down and tell them, "I'm really worried about you because of x, y, z. I think you need to talk to the doctor about going on medication to help you with this tough time." Don't come with both barrels blazing at them, just sit and be kind. And don't be surprised if they get angry at first and yell. When you are in deployment, the stress level is at an all time high. You are mother & father to your children. If you own a home and it is need of repairs, that adds to the stress. So try not to take it very personally. You love them, you want what is best for them, and come to them in that way if necessary. And if you think they might be a harm to themselves and their children please do not wait. Get them help immediately, sometimes waiting can mean the difference between life and death.

7. If you know there is no one else around for Christmas or Holidays, by all means invite us. But also don't be surprised if we say no. It isn't that we don't appreciate the offer, it's just sometimes it's nicer to have a quiet no fuss, no muss holiday. There is something nice and calming about letting your kids declare Thanksgiving Day as official Koeppel Jammie Day (insert last name of families you know w/deployed loved one) and just chilling. Yes, we were a little bored near the end, but it was also nice to just goof off and enjoy the time w/the girls alone. I think we even went out for a drive later that evening and looked around at Christmas displays.

8. Church family: Trust the person who is going through the deployment. Some of us thrive on going to church, others may not - especially if they've been burned badly in the past. It isn't personal against you, maybe we just need a little time and space. It doesn't mean we don't love God, it means that right now, we don't want to be around people, even if they are a part of the Body of Christ.

9. Most important, so I am saving it for last. Prayers are always, always appreciated! Sometimes prayer is the difference between a soldier/sailor coming home in a box or safe. When Chris deployed in 2004 Mom woke up in the middle of the night and felt an urgent need to pray for him. He was good, but there were some mortar attacks. A few months before he got home, a lovely woman from church came up to me and asked if Chris was okay and had I spoken with him recently. She had felt the need to pray for him urgently the night before church. During church Chris text messaged me - his truck had been hit by an IED. Had Chris not chosen to sit when he did, he would have had serious injuries, including most of his face being taken off had this woman not listened to the need to pray. I remember sitting there absorbing that information and praying Thank you, Lord for making Chris like George Washington - almost bulletproof. You never know when your prayers will make a difference.
For now that is all I can think of. Keep in mind this list is created from my perspective so each military family is different. Some people thrive on stress, I am just not one of them.

Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." It may not always seem that way but it is. If you are military spouse facing your first deployment. Know you are not alone. There are thousands of us all over the world, some American, some from foreign countries who are going through this with you. Find us, if you need to and we'll see you through I encourage you to find a person on base, or from the unit who has gone through deployment before - someone you connect with, they can offer advice, encouragement and sage words of wisdom and if you're really lucky a few laughs while you both struggle through deployment together.

Love in Christ,
Maureen Koeppel

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