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Preparing for Battle

By Vernon Boardley 

Having served in the Armed Forces for over 25 years now, I can still clearly remember the first time I was asked to deploy in support of a major operation. It was 1990 and the deployment was Desert Shield which grew into Operation Desert Storm. Up until this point, deploying seemed to be something that other people did; that all changed in August of 1990.

When I joined in 1983, I always knew that military life was a full-time commitment and that members of the armed forces are in a continuous state of readiness. I also understood that when I became a member of the Air Force, I made a commitment to protect, honor, and serve my country. That commitment included the possibility of deploying at a moment’s notice. Like the old saying goes, “put up or shut-up”. Well, it was my turn to “put-up”. In retrospect, everything happened so fast. No one could have predicted that Saddam Hussein would have the insolence to invade his neighbors in Kuwait. I remember seeing the invasion on the evening news. In two short weeks, I, was sitting in an aircraft hangar in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Back in 1990 no one ever talked about personal readiness as it is preached today. It takes time and effort to make sure that all loved ones are ready for the possibility of a family separation.

I had a mere two weeks from notification to actually being on the ground in Saudi Arabia. I think that heads were still spinning with everyone involved when I finally got on the aircraft to depart. I had to create a will, designate a power of attorney, complete my estate planning, entitle legal guardians for my children, discuss financial matters with my loved ones, develop a budget, arrange for the paying of bills, and make a list of health care providers. Nowadays, service people usually receive plenty of time in advance to prepare for such separations. The military has been deploying at a steady state for nearly twenty years now.

As with any other endeavor, communication is the key. Often, family members don’t talk about deployments because the possibility of separation makes them feel uncomfortable. But open and honest discussions are the best way to deal with all of the anxiety and minimize potential problems. Many times couples preparing for family separation go through so many different emotions. Initially, there may be some excitement. As time passes, couples may start to withdraw from each other in an attempt to try and deal with the many emotions that are taking place. There may be an emotional distance, a lack of sexual interest, a genuine feeling that the marriage is out of control, and sharing of thoughts and feelings may cease.

In addition, after a substantial separation and subsequent reunion, there may be a sense of disappointment that things did not go as planned. Many family members are angry or possibly depressed; others feel overwhelmed, lonely, and frustrated. On the other hand, if some time has gone by and the spouse realizes that they are doing okay, they start to gain confidence. After awhile, if they have had some successful experiences this will lead to a renewed self-confidence in their own abilities. It is at this point that some spouses are actually glad that their spouse is gone. As with any venture in life continues and such is so with family separation. After a while there is a new source of support in friends, activities, and maybe an increased involvement at the local church and so on.


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