Recently, an acquaintance began her first experience with deployment as a special operations wife. I don’t think she anticipated that it would be any different than anyone else’s experience with deployment. Little did she know how wrong she was. She quickly found out and I felt so sad for her.
Yes, the world of special ops generally “enjoys” shorter deployments. However, those shorter deployments are also more frequent and quite a large amount of time that they are supposedly home involves training away from home for days and sometimes weeks at a time.
I remember the first time my husband deployed and the phone call I received informing me of the rules of special ops deployments. There were words that couldn’t be said on the phone, I was not to tell anyone other than immediate family members that he was deployed, if I needed support, I was to lean on other wives in his unit and certainly no one outside…after all, they couldn’t even know he was gone. I was told it was better to ignore the news and only trust information about his unit that came straight from the FRG. No pictures online and certainly no pictures in uniform.
It was overwhelming. Here I was dealing with a situation that I had never dealt with before in my life and now I was being given all of these extra rules. Some of my family called who had also served in his unit in the past and asked me how he was doing. I delivered the statement I was told to give and they instantly knew what that meant. They told me they were there if I needed anything and to go to every FRG meeting there was.
I followed that advice. But it didn’t prepare me for the first phone call I received about casualties in his unit. I didn’t yet know that if I was getting a phone call, it meant my husband was okay. I wasn’t home at the time and called home to check my messages. I was given just enough information on the answering machine to scare me to death and was told to call back only on a landline. I was out of town with only my cell phone. No calling card. Nothing. Where the heck was I going to find a landline? And how was I going to control my emotions until then? After all, if anyone asked, I couldn’t even tell them what was going on.
Luckily, my husband was fine. And while there were several who were hurt, all survived. I then also learned that casualties in the Army could mean wounded or dead. Casualties in my head meant dead. I was told that if I received a phone call, I could rest easy. The knock at the door was what I had to be concerned about in the future.
I lived in fear of someone knocking on my door. An unexpected visitor would make my heart rate increase exponentially as I would debate even answering the door fearing what would be on the other side.
But the worst part about it was not being able to talk about it openly. I was so jealous of those on my message board who could talk about every single part of the deployment and get support from so many others. I wanted that too.
Eventually, I did learn to lean on the other wives in his unit. I became close and fast friends with them and figured out that they were my built in support system and I was theirs. One look and we would know what the other was thinking. We all received the same scary phone calls. And we all knew we only had each other to lean on when we needed to talk.
So while there are definite downfalls to all of the rules that surround deployments, there were also positives. As wives, we formed a bond that was indescribable. They became my family and even now, that he is out, we still visit with that family.
I thought they were taking away my connections and my ability to talk to my family with all of their rules. What I didn’t realize at the time is that they were actually creating a new one for me that understood everything better than anyone else possibly could.