When we learned my husband’s Ohio Army National Guard unit would be deploying to the Middle East in September 2022 for a year in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, my mind kicked into planning mode.
We had been through three previous deployments. Each one presented new challenges.
We were unmarried for the first deployment in 2003-04. The separation was difficult, and communication was sparse back then. But I was a girlfriend, not a wife, so the administrative details of deployment didn’t fall on my plate.
We were married and expecting our first child by the second deployment in 2009. The pregnancy and birth of our daughter, Sadie, were top of mind then. By the third deployment in 2011-12, Sadie was a toddler and we had an infant, Paige. That year was a bit of a blur.
This time around, we have two middle school-aged girls. Their well-being is our priority. With that in mind, I wanted all of us to feel as stable and prepared as possible for the yearlong deployment.
Here’s a list of things I’m glad we did before my husband left in September. While you can never eliminate all the uncertainty associated with deployment, doing these things upfront has given me peace of mind.
1. We made a deployment financial plan.
Before the deployment, we mapped out a plan for the fourth quarter of 2022 and 2023 to the best of our ability. At the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program’s Soldier & Family Mobilization Brief, we connected with a personal financial counselor to discuss how to maximize Thrift Savings Plan contributions and ensure we’re benefiting from the Combat Zone Tax Exclusions. We followed that up with a call to our tax adviser to make sure our plan made sense.
2. We updated our legal documents.
We also connected with the unit’s Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer at the mobilization brief to discuss which legal documents we needed before deployment. We realized my husband’s will and living will hadn’t been updated since before we were married. I followed up with the officer after the event to complete the paperwork before my husband headed overseas. A JAG also can help you set up power-of-attorney documents if needed.
3. We made a family bucket list for deployment.
When we told our daughters their dad would be leaving for a year, we tried to offset the difficult news with a talk about all the fun stuff we could do as a family before he left. We made plans to attend a Cleveland Guardians game, visit Cedar Point Amusement Park and go to the girls’ first Browns game. We also let each girl plan a special day with her dad.
In the meantime, we saved money and began loosely planning a trip to the unit’s mobilization site in the event they got a pass before heading overseas. They did, and we had an awesome five-day trip to El Paso, Texas. Some soldiers chose to go home during their pass, but for us it felt more special and relaxing to make a mini family vacation out of it.
4. We found a counselor for our children.
We proactively established a relationship with a therapist early in the deployment. I found a local counselor covered by TRICARE, although other options are available through Military OneSource and the nonprofit Give an Hour. I feel reassured that my daughters are establishing a rapport with a mental health professional.
5. We sent our girls to military kids camp.
A drawback of being in the National Guard is you’re not surrounded by a military community the same way as if you lived on a base. Our kids don’t have friends at school or in our town whose parents have been deployed.
That’s why we feel so lucky our girls have attended Ohio Military Kids events. We’ve gone to weekend family camp several times and had a blast doing outdoor activities like boating, horseback riding and ziplining with other military families.
And this past summer both girls attended Camp Kelley’s Island — a weeklong summer camp just for military-connected kids. They’ve stayed in touch with their bunkmates and they can’t wait to go back this summer.Read comments