So it’s here. The dreaded word we all know too well in this military life. Deployment. Goodbyes have been said. The buses have driven off. You’ve gone through all of the pre-deployment ups and downs, emotions, stress, and even the laughs and happiness from spending quality time together, and yet it still doesn’t seem to have sunken in yet. You’ve known this has been coming for a while. You’ve given yourself those silent pep-talks. You’ve even begun to feel okay with it on most days. But now it’s actually here. It’s here. How did the time pass so incredibly quickly the few months leading up to this, and now has seemed to suddenly stop?
Well milso (military significant other), you are not alone. I hear you. I’ve been in your shoes before, and soon I’ll be standing in them again. I want to tell you one thing – you can do this! You are so much stronger than you know, and this deployment can actually bridge you to a stronger, more accomplished, and proud version of yourself. It won’t always be easy, but you were built for much more than just easy. You are a milso after all!
You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only option.
As a milso, you have the unspoken duty to stay strong during deployment and to support your hero who is away supporting our country. Because deployment is inevitable in this military life, and because it took me way too long to figure these things out for myself, I wanted to share some of the things that helped deployment not only pass by quicker for me, but to be overall more successful. Below are my 5 tried-and-true tips that made deployment just a little more bearable in my experience. From one milso to another, I hope they help you to thrive during your deployment as well!
5 Ways to a More Successful Deployment for the Milso Left Behind:
#1 Get festive and have fun with passing the time. Sure, a care package is a care package and it is ultimately going to deliver the same goods whether it’s decorated or not, but there is something that felt more enjoyable when I got festive with them. A work of art! A feeling that my service member would be able to feel how much they are missed when they see the little drawings and goofy sayings on the inside of the box. There are now hundreds of care package ideas you can browse through on Pinterest or if you’re creative, you could even share some of your own!
Ideas on how you can get festive with keeping your connection during deployment:
- Make decorated/themed care packages
- Do monthly countdowns (Perhaps take a fun monthly picture with a balloon number!)
- Create a “Kisses from Daddy” (or Mommy/Husband/Wife) Jar and give yourself/your kids a “Kiss” from your service member each night before bed.
- Make a fun chalkboard to hang on your wall and change the number of days until your significant other comes home daily.
- Create a deployment wall. Perhaps you can hang a world map where you have the kids place a marker where Daddy/Mommy is and research the location to learn about the culture there! Check out these tips for creating a deployment wall.
Getting festive, having fun with the countdowns, and embracing the time apart will not only help to pass the time and connect with your loved one, but it will also be a reminder that you have something AMAZING to look forward to – homecoming! Keep your eye on the prize!
#2 Fill your calendar with things to look forward to. This is an absolute MUST. A non-negotiable! Doesn’t matter whether you are brand new to your area and have yet to make friends, are staying home with family and friends during deployment, have children or not, you must keep busy and give yourself things to look forward to! My rule of thumb was to do something “small” every week, and something “big” every month. It really did give me excitement each week to wake up and know that I had something fun planned! You don’t have to spend a lot, or anything, to give yourself something to look forward to.
Examples of “small” things to put on your weekly calendar:
- Have coffee with a friend
- Take a trip to a new or different-than-usual park with your kids
- Walk with your dog in a new spot/location you haven’t been before
- Watch the sunrise or sunset from a scenic spot
- Cook dinner with another spouse in your service member’s unit
- Attend one of Martinsburg College’s Local Weekly Coffee Socials (Send a message on Facebook to find out if there will be one in your area!)
- Go shopping with a friend
- Go on a local hike
Examples of “big” things to put on your monthly calendar:
- Travel somewhere out of town that you’ve never been before with a friend
- Have a family member or friend come visit you
- Plan a movie-night-out with a group of friends and see a new release
- Visit a theme park, zoo, or other fun place (be sure to call or visit the ITT or MWR office at your local duty station to find out if there are military discounted rates!)
- Visit a nearby National Park (find out if there is one close to you here)
- Participate in a road race
- Go camping
Seriously. Having something on your calendar each week, and planning a “bigger” ordeal each month, will give you (and your kids) something to look forward to! We are ALL counting down the days until Homecoming, but that can seem so far away if it’s the ONLY thing you’re counting on!
#3 Set personal goals, and smash them! Goals, goals, goals. You’ve got to have ‘em. Achieving some goals during deployment will transform that time from a long, slow, and dull wait to a positive, productive experience that helped you grow personally and/or professionally. The great thing about goals is they can be different for every person, and it doesn’t matter what your goals are!
Do you want to save up for something extraordinary? Condition yourself to be healthier or more fit? Launch that blog or business you’ve always dreamed of doing? Get a job or advance your career? Complete college? Create an art masterpiece? Read that book series you have never found time for? Or something else? Deployment is a perfect time to tackle those goals!
With deployment comes a big bundle of extra time. It might not feel like it at first, as we know usually things seem to go into chaos during that first week of deployment (Wait, your dishwasher broke, car battery went dead, AND pet got sick all at the same time too?! Phew, I’m not the only milso…), but once the initial aftermath of deployment actually sinking in finally subsides, you will find that you do have extra time on your hands. There is no better way to spend that extra time than doing something that will help you progress.
When you look back on deployment, it can be a time of transformation, growth, and productivity. It can be a more positive experience that you can look back on and be proud of. So get after those goals!
#4 Further your education. One of the biggest holdbacks I’ve heard from fellow military spouses about not being able to further their education is the lack of time. Well, as mentioned previously in #3, deployment creates a whole lot of extra time on your hands! Education is a bridge to new opportunities, to a sense of pride and accomplishment, and to a future safety net for you and your family. Education is so important that it just had to be put into its own category!
If you’ve been putting off school, or haven’t had the time to get started, deployment can be the perfect time to discipline yourself and further your education! You may even be able to become a college GRADUATE in the timeframe of deployment! How amazing would it be to welcome your service member home and share the exciting news that you are now a college graduate?! If you are a military spouse, you may qualify for Military Spouse Education Benefits that could cover the cost of you going to school, so be sure to check out your opportunities!
And let’s be honest here – there are going to be moments during deployment that leave us feeling a little empty.
#5 Volunteer. Because giving back feels good. There’s nothing quite like the feeling that comes with selflessly helping others. And let’s be honest here – there are going to be moments during deployment that leave us feeling a little empty. Fight through those moments and fill your heart with that warm, fuzzy, feel-good wholeness that you can receive through volunteering! There are so many places you can volunteer, even if it’s just a few hours a week or once a month! Every duty station has volunteer opportunities both on and off the military installation.
Here are some places you can look to for volunteer opportunities:
- Check with your service member’s Family Readiness Office for volunteer opportunities specific to your service member’s unit
- The National Military Family Association has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for military spouses and civilians. Apply here.
- Search for both local and online volunteer opportunities at Volunteer Match.
- For volunteer opportunities at Army Installations, check Army OneSource.
- Naval and Marine Corps Bases: The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities with flexible hours and full training provided. From business office positions to public speaking opportunities, you can be sure to find a good fit for you!
- Local homeless shelters
- Local animal shelters
- Local hospitals
- YMCA volunteer opportunities
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of America volunteer opportunities
Volunteering not only feels great, but you also can list that as experience on your resume! Helping those around you and in turn enhancing your resume will leave you with plenty of feel-good moments to look back on and feel proud of during deployment. These are the kind of feelings that help deployment to feel just a little more bearable!
Remember, you’ve got this!
And that’s that! Those are the tips that have helped me to conquer previous deployments with my spouse and will no doubt help me through the next one. I hope they can help you also to make this deployment experience a better one that you can look back on and feel proud of in the future. It won’t always be easy, but you’ve got this! We are all in this, together. Best wishes to you and your deployment experience, it won’t be easy but the homecoming will be worth it!
What of these things are you going to try during your deployment? What else has helped you to make deployment a better experience?