My husband Joey and I have been together 5 and a half years, and married for 2 and a half. He deployed in the beginning of October 2016, so he was gone for our second wedding anniversary. (He was in boot camp for our first wedding anniversary, too, so we haven’t spent one together yet.) I started crying the night before, not able to stop thinking that this was the last night we’d spend together for over six months. He had a pretty early leave time in the day, so we were pretty much just getting up and leaving that morning. I had just started learning to drive a stick shift a few weeks before, and Joey often had me drive places, but I asked him to drive there that morning because I felt too upset to concentrate on it. There were a lot of people already there when we got to the drop off area, mostly in their own small groups. We waited a little while until they had to gather around and listen to some instructions and do a roll call, and then they had another 5 or 10 minutes to say goodbye before boarding a bus. I stayed in the parking lot until I couldn’t see the bus anymore.
I went straight home and had a good cry with our dog. I wanted to be alone, but I also didn’t. One of my friends picked me up around 10 in the morning and took me out to eat and to shop, and our other friend joined us a little later. We baked cookies and they helped clean and organize my house just to be nice and distract me, and they stayed with me that whole day. Even though I wanted to be alone at first, I was very grateful to have them around.
Naturally, the first month or two were pretty hard. I had to get used to being without him again; it was different from when he went to BMT because back then, we still lived in our home state. I lived a 10 minute drive from my mom, 15 minutes from my sisters, or 20 minutes from my dad. Now, I’m a 4 hour flight with no layovers. I felt guilty leaving our dog home alone when I went to work, especially since a lot of the time, I didn’t feel like entertaining him. Soon, it got too cold and there was too much snow to take him on walks, and I could tell he got bored a lot, which made me feel even more guilty. I got angry at him and at little things easily, but I pride myself on being polite and friendly so I never let it show, bottling it up until I was alone. I didn’t want to go out with friends, but I was glad when I did and had a good time.
I did little things to try and make me feel better, like using his car keys and wearing his clothes. I also did things that made it worse, like calculating the exact number of days he was gone at BMT (previously the longest I had gone without seeing him), and then calculating which day in his deployment would break that record and feeling extra sorry for myself that whole day. I sent him an occasional care package, and I even met a friend in person for the first time because she posted on facebook organizing a get-together to decorate care packages for our deployed spouses. We never ended up decorating the boxes, but we did hang out, eat, and get to know each other. My friends who I mentioned earlier had me over for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we hung out the day after Valentine’s day and on Joey’s birthday, all days which would have been harder compared to a regular day.
I think it’s very important to have someone you can talk to or spend time with or vent to; I think I was very lucky in that I had such wonderful friends and even a lot of acquaintances I could talk to, including some who were also going through their spouse’s first deployment, or ones who have been through it before. If I didn’t really know anybody, I probably would have had a much harder time and felt way more alone while Joey was gone. For anybody reading this whose spouse is about to deploy for the first time or already has, I can’t recommend reaching out and talking to someone strongly enough, whether they’re going through the same thing or not.