Any time a family member deploys overseas into harm’s way, it can have an incredible impact on the entire family, both immediate and extended. When your child is married, as the parent, you can feel somewhat left out in the cold when it comes to dealing with the deployment and the emotions that it brings. The following information is intended to help cope with those emotions and the situations that may arise, regardless of whether you are the parent of a single soldier or married soldier.
Before his deployment…
Make sure you know his social security number and unit information. This seems simple enough but if the case arises when you need it, many people are scrounging for this information. Get the information from your soldier before he leaves and keep it in a safe place. Keep in mind that the unit information and address that the Red Cross, for example, may ask for will be different than his mailing address overseas.
If permissible by OPSEC guidelines, have your soldier give you an idea of where he will be within the country and what his job will be while he is there. While he may not be able to give exact information, the more you know, the more comfortable you will feel.
Discuss how you will stay in touch. Ask your soldier if he would prefer that you communicate by phone, email or letters. His access to these forms of communication will vary based on unit and location but generally, most soldiers have this available on a fairly regular basis.
If your soldier is single, be sure to have him place you as the point of contact for the unit and the FRG. This will ensure that you receive updates throughout the deployment. You can also check online to see if your soldier’s unit has a virtual FRG (www.armyfrg.org). If your soldier is married, you may have to get information through your daughter-in-law, depending on the rules of the FRG.
During his deployment…
Communicate as often as possible through the communication means that he chose. Remember that phone calls may be very short and are often dropped mid-sentence so say the important things in the beginning of the phone call. Keep phone calls as upbeat as possible and let him tell you about events rather than bombarding him with questions.
Send care packages over to him with things that he requests or you think he would enjoy. Many times, anything that reminds him of home is welcome. Also consider sponsoring other soldiers in his unit who are not receiving items.
Create a support group. This can be done through your soldier’s FRG if you live close. If not, reach out to others online or start a support group in your area. Being around people who are enduring the same things can alleviate some of the stress surrounding a deployment.
Volunteer your time to help the troops. Many FRGs are looking for volunteers as well as agencies on post. If you are not close to a post, you can check into volunteering with the Red Cross, USO, or Fisher House. Many airports also have welcoming committees that are there to welcome our troops home as they step foot back on home soil.
Ask your soldier about visiting during R&R. If he is married, he needs that time to reconnect with his wife and children. A visit is fine but do not plan to stay for the entire two weeks or for him to visit for the entire two weeks. Be sure to abide by his wishes during this time.
If an emergency arises and you need to contact your soldier, contact the Red Cross. They can deliver a message to your soldier. The information will be verified by his command if it includes a request for him to return home. Be sure you have all of the information needed before calling including his social security number and his unit information. Be aware that his being able to return home depends on the circumstances as well as the current situation overseas.
After the deployment…
Abide by your soldier’s wishes. All soldiers will deal with returning from a deployment differently. Some may be fine with a huge homecoming ceremony with lots of people while some may not want anyone there outside of immediate family. Keep the stress level as low as possible by agreeing to whatever type of homecoming he would like to have.
Let him talk about what happened overseas without asking questions. Some soldiers need to talk to others about things that happened while others prefer to keep it inside or to only talk to fellow comrades about events. Let him be the one to lead these types of conversations. Never push for information.
Enjoy your time with him and do whatever you can to help him acclimate to his surroundings again. It’s very important during this time to do as he asks and respect his wishes.
Do you have other tips on how to deal with a child’s deployment? Please let me know by commenting below.
Additional tips emailed to me:
My son has been deployed 3 times Iraq twice & Afghan once, I found through experience that letting him know everyone he loved was well and that they always ask about him. Also they don’t wanna hear that most of the general public don’t care what they are going through’ so grit your teeth parents and fib to them that Joe public appreciates them as much as we do. Also my wife survived by blanking the news. I was the opposite ,thinking back, her way was better. If you hear of casualties and they haven’t rang you since try not to think the worse like I did. It is common practice for their superiors to take mobiles off them for an amount of time