A female Sailor I was pen pals with received a care package from her boyfriend. Inside she discovered the keys to her truck. That’s how he broke up with her. By mailing her keys to a combat zone. She had to mail them back to a friend so they could retrieve her truck- from his driveway. She decided not to attempt to reconcile with him. I was very supportive of that idea.
Deployment can strain any relationship. And shaky ones are not made stronger by it. After all, if long dangerous separations were romance-builders, everyone would do it.
PERSON IN LOVE 1: Baby, I think we’re ready for the next step.
PERSON IN LOVE 2: Gasp! You mean…
PERSON IN LOVE 1: Yes, see you next year.
PERSON IN LOVE 2: Awesome! I’ll handle everything solo. You try not to get shot.
SFX (sound effects) : KISS
The effects of deployment extend beyond romantic relationships. They impact the entire family. Especially children. All kids are different but all miss their mom or dad. You can get a sense for what a young child goes through here. An Airman told me that his 3-year-old son was angry with him for not doing what the boy instructed. He kept saying, “Daddy, just steal a helicopter and come home!”
And then there are gnomes
I have heard and read so many stories about “deployment gnomes.” How everything goes wrong the minute troops leave. The boiler breaks. The engine fails. The plague arrives. Sometimes all on the same day. These gnomes can cause the person at home to feel even more stressed and on their own.
You know how there are sounds that only dogs can hear? I think there’s one that only appliances, vehicles and small children can hear. When a plane full of troops takes off, I think it emits a sound that alerts all devices and toddlers that now- NOW! is the time to have a meltdown.
Just because you can’t see the gnomes or hear the signal, doesn’t mean they’re not there.
The cure for heartaches & gnomes is…
If I had the answer I’d be a millionaire. Love and appliances can be difficult in civilian life. Deployment takes it to a new level. But I think there are things that can help.
If you know a military family with a deployed loved one, please check in with them from time to time. If you can offer any help, being specific is better than a general, “hey if you ever need anything, let me know.” This way the person knows it’s a genuine offer versus just being polite. For example:
“I’m going to the supermarket, is there anything I can pick up for you?”
“I heard the kids were sick. Do you need a hand?”
“We’re having movie night, why don’t you join us?
Or simply the occasional email saying they are in your thoughts. Showing concern is wonderful. However, if you see something bad in the news, don’t bring it up. Many families try not to watch the news or only want to discuss it AFTER they know for sure everything is okay.
Overall, both troops and their loved ones need to know that they are not forgotten. Will some relationships still end? Of course. Just like some washing machines were meant to die. But knowing you have people standing with you, rooting for you and just generally on your side…well, that’s when we all have our best chance to thrive. Gnomes be damned!
© Gina left the mall, 2013