CONTRIBUTED BY COLLEEN FRANCIS

I’m asked often by family, and ‘non military’ friends what it is like having your husband gone. It’s usually rather funny because either days earlier or weeks later they will complain that their husbands are going on a fishing trip, or have to travel for work for a few days, or even better… they have to work late tonight, and they have it so hard. I try really hard not to laugh and I really want to sympathize, but it’s not easy. Sometimes I want to scream. I will try to express as best I can to express the hearts of military wives…

This is a picture of the good times.

Deployment kiss

One of my dearest and best BFF’s. What a sweet kiss her husband stole at the Marine Corps Ball this year. He just left for another deployment. Another? ¬†Yes. Less than a year ago he returned from a 12 month deployment to Iraq, and he’s gone again for another 7 this time to Afghanistan. They have three children and have been married 18 years.

This is a D-Day photo…Deployment Day. The picture tells the entire story.

Deployment dday

We met this couple over 10 years ago when our husbands were instructors together. They have two children and have been married over 15 years. What does all of this mean? It means we 100% embrace the great times and 100% embrace the heart ache. A heart ache that cannot be understood by the average person and is only reserved for those that carry the title Military Spouse. We have to kiss our best friend, our babies’ parent, our lover, our mate, our everything one last time holding onto every moment of every breath as if it could be our last because none of us truly know if it is our last moment together. Our spouses do not fly to Vegas for a conference or ride to Daytona for Bike Week. They are gone for months on end, year after year. They miss the birth of their children, anniversaries, holidays, 4th of Julys and the first days of school. They miss out on their daughter’s first kiss, the first time their son stood up to a bully, homemade dinners, baseball games, tea parties, teenagers with driver’s permits, and new puppies.

We, the military spouses, are repeatedly told that we “were not issued with their sea bags” and are not a priority to the military. We are extra baggage. But we also know that these warriors depend on us to stand strong and carry the torch, while also keeping the lawn mowed, cars tuned up, bills paid, house clean, laundry done, homework completed, work accomplished, care packages sent, letters and emails written and most of all keeping a level head. Especially when the family back home, who never sees them, falls apart and can’t handle the deployment, we are there… holding it all together reminding them and reassuring them that God is in control.

We cry ourselves to sleep because the pillow next to us is empty again. We wipe away our tears at the dinner table when our son says, “This is Daddy’s favorite meal, sure wish he was here to eat it with us.” We sometimes go to Wal-Mart or the commissary with a ball cap on and dirty jeans and t-shirt because we truly don’t have the energy to take a shower or take care of ourselves because we so busy taking care of everyone and everything else. We build homes with blood sweat and tears, we make trips to the ER for tetanus shots, broken bones and stitches… alone. Holding it all together, praying night after night for a phone call or an email anything to tell us that another day has passed and our warrior is okay.

We cringe at the sight of black cars in a friend’s driveway, but we are smart enough to plan a head… we have a plan of action for the “what if”. And then we pray 24/7 never to use that plan. It’s not a simple fire escape route, it is the my-world-has-collapsed-around-me-I-can-no-longer-breath plan. We can’t tell you what’s really on our hearts because if we speak we won’t be able to stop. We appear fearless in the eyes of man, but I believe only God truly knows my heart. I believe He sees my pain, the gaping hole from the missing piece of us that only our spouse can fill. And I rely on God and the mental images of my husband standing next to me to make it through each and every deployment.

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31 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you so much for this article… I read this right @ the end of a deployment and got news that my husband will be turning right around to head out again.

    Reading this I was able to reflect and nod my head yes, yes and yes I went through that. I love how u have put “our” heart’s on paper. Thank you and May God bless you my friend.

  2. This is beautifully written and I have to say I am quite appalled at some of the comments. I don’t believe this post was written to start a competition of who has it the worst. I feel like it can show other spouses going through a similar situation that they are not alone. Great job!

  3. I agree with Stacey. My husband has been deployed for 6 months now and I really related to this post. It’s so sad to see that there are people here on this island that can be so mean in response to a post like this. A person who strives to be nice to others is probably a much happier person than one who looks for opportunities to be mean. Doesn’t everyone want to be happy??

  4. Wonderfully written. Thanks for sharing your feelings. My husband is currently about halfway through a 9 month deployment and it’s nice to know there are many other spouses out there feeling the same way I do. I’ll be sharing with friends & family ‘back home’ so that, if only just slightly, they can understand what I’m going through.

  5. WOW, i just read an Awesome article that an amazing military spouse/mom wrote.One who decided to graciously share her thoughts and personal feelings with others, so vulnerably, and honest…..then i went on the read all the responses, some supportive and some just downright distasteful…..and it just goes to show why we as americans along with our country is heading in the sad directions it is heading in. We are just proving to anyone who reads this that we as a whole, as US Military members and dependents, do not all, have each others back or as a whole give 100% support to our people as a nation…ITS STARTS WITH US YOU KNOW….and as i see it…we are failing our country with lack of support in even just the smallest things like…an article of one womens take on a deployed spouses life and her feelings. Hmmm i’m ashamed, maybe we should all get down on our knees and pray to your God that our hearts learn how to love alittle more and hate alittle less…..and to remember the old saying…IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, THEN KEEP IT TO YOURSELF!! After all i’ll pray for you all regardless…..just passing on the love, which we need more of in this crazy crazy world.

  6. i think this is amazing … and thank you for writting it ! my whole family loved it and agreeed .!! i used to be in the military but that was easy no matter what but now that i am a military spouse . it is way harder … thank you again

  7. As an active duty servicemember who has been married for over 15 years, I can tell you that military spouses have an unbelievably job to do whenever their loved one deploys. They are now the sole mom, dad, nurse, teacher, disciplinarian, housekeeper, cook, accountant, and taxi driver. While we active duty are so glad that our spouses miss us, it sure makes our jobs downrange a whole lot easier to know that life at home is being tended to with a happy heart (or an as-happy-as-can-be expected heart). We do not want to picture our spouses out painting the town red and partying like rockstars while we’re away. On the other hand, we do not want to picture our spouses depressed and sitting at home miserable all the time either. We can focus on our job and our safety better when we don’t have to spend so much time worrying about what is going on at home.

  8. I agree that some of the comments about this article are not very fair. I really hope nobody reads my previous comment and thinks I’m attacking the author of the article. That was not my intention at all. I guess what I was trying to say is that it is okay to be really sad and heartbroken while your spouse is deployed. However, you should not feel like a bad person if you are not.

  9. I totally disagree with the way some of these people have said they have it harder than us spouses do. Yes I will agree with you they have more added stress but us military spouses basically stay at home all day or if we do work it’s nowhere near actually being a soldier or marine etc.. Those types of Jobs you HAVE TO STAY FOCUSED! Where as us civilians we do have to stay focused to an extent but we often wonder what our spouses are up to and if they are going to come home all in one peice. Not to mention dual military families have better ability to take care of their family then one single active duty member. because you still have 2 steady paychecks to coming in. Where as a Spouse will usually quit her job and stay home full time with his/ her kids because there’s no one else who can. I think its really rude to say that an active duty member has more to gripe about than a spouse. Considering their training and awareness of what being the acitive duty member intails.

  10. I just wanted to say that its very sad that people on Okinawa seriously treat others the way they do. People deal with things differently and just because they don’t deal with them the way you do, doesn’t give anybody the right to “one up” the other. I hate how people have to hide behind a computer screen and put down others to make them feel better about themselves. I wish people would just be there for others here on this island. We all feel alone at one point in our lives regardless if we are the spouse, military member or the child of that military member. Regardless of who we are or what we are, we all represent the Military of the United States and I find it very disrespectful and embarrassing the way that people here decide to represent it. No wonder “civilians” don’t appreciate the military anymore. Just my opinion!

  11. I totally agree with Jos’ comment that we all handle deployments different. I hate when my husband is gone although after being together for over 20 yrs.17 of which he has been in the military we see deployments as a time for our hearts to grow fonder. Its a time when we realize we don’t need each other but want to be with each other. On the other hand I know many other wives who deal with them in a different manor.Although I will admit that I sleep with my husbands T-shirt when he’s gone and yelled at my mom one time when she was visiting me and thought she would help me out by doing laundry and washed it.lol

  12. Thank you for sharing YOUR experiences with us. I had tears in my eyes because of YOUR pain. This was YOUR perspective on how deployments affect YOU and I want you to know that many of US support you and feel the same exact way. From one SUPPORTIVE military wife to another, keep up the good work, hold your head high, and always know that there are many people that are here for YOU!

  13. While we appreciate all the responses and different viewpoints that you, our readers, are bringing to this post I’d like to remind you of the comment policy that we have set up for this community. Please feel free to share and discuss your reactions to what you’ve read, but remember to play nice.

    http://www.okinawahai.com/comment-policy

  14. It is so frustrating to read a heart felt article (regardless if one agrees or disagrees…relates to the whole or parts) then see it torn apart by those who should be supportive of each other the most…other spouses and military members! I do agree with Jo that we all have different experiences during deployments and there are a lot of programs to help spouses (dual or other wise) through all aspects of deployments. I’m sure this article will help some feel that they are not alone. So bravo for writing down you most heart felt feeling and sharing them.

  15. My husband deploys frequently and for long periods of time. There are plenty of instances when I miss my husband and I wish he was with me, but I do not fall apart, cry myself to sleep, or lose the will to shower and take care of myself. When my husband first leaves, I always feel numb and disconnected for the first few days. However, once he is in place at his deployed location, I start viewing each day as one more day to mark off the deployment calendar and one day closer to his return. I remain positive and deal with issues at home to the best of my ability. I volunteer in the unit and in the community. I plan fun activities for myself and for my children to help make the time go faster. I utilize the services available to deployed spouses on the island, such as the deployed spouses dinners.

    I understand that the person who wrote this article is being honest with her feelings, and I admire her for writing so candidly about how deployments affect her. I am not trying to take away from that at all–Just trying to point out that deployments affect us military spouses differently.

  16. No one holds a patent on pain, least of all us “military spouses”. The statement that you possess a level of heartache not felt by any other classification of human being is about the most-self absorbed thing I have ever heard in my entire life. Grow up.

  17. This sounds like a cry for attention. A true military spouse would never have to bog about this. Just like true military heroes are the ones you rarely hear about.

  18. Thanks for this article, it is well written and touching. I would love to share it with family, but the first comment ruins it all. I did not see this article as a complaint by any means, but I DO see that comment as one.

  19. I have been in both shoes, both the active duty member and a spouse. It is hard for both, but to tell a military spouse they don’t know what it is like is not fair. A spouse is often treated as their “sponsors last four” as I found out this past year when I got off active duty. It is extremely hard to deal with certain situations, As an active duty member you are your own sponsor married or not so there are no road blocks for you, but as a military spouse you are constantly faced with road blocks dealing with certain things. There is no competition between Spouse and Military member it is hard on both. The military member has to leave their family behind and it is often a feeling of guilt and a spouse has to hold it all together and it can often be overwhelming. Let’s not attack each other, but be strong for each other because it is not easy on both ends. I too felt the same way as Colleen, when my husband deployed (I was still on active duty). Very nice piece Colleen, it is so nice to see it put together so beautifully.

  20. This brought tears to my eyes. I don’t think I’ve ever read a more heartfelt piece on what it’s like to be a military spouse during a deployment. You’ve nailed it.

  21. Mary, your situation makes both of you military spouses for whom the poignancy of this article is doubly true. I understand where yon are coming from, but the “who has it worse” game has no winners. We are all here to support each other as best we can.

  22. Colleen, thank you for this painful yet wonderfully true portrayal of our daily life and experiences we have being military spouses. How sad that someone felt the need to tarnish your personal opinion and heartfelt sincerity about your life. Ahem, Mary.

  23. Thank you for this Colleen. It’s nice to see what many of us are feeling put into words. It makes me feel not quite so alone.
    It’s too bad some people feel it neccessary to take a sweet, unpretentious article and turn it into a competition.
    In light of what is going on in this world, NONE of us should really be “complaining”. If we have our homes, our health, and our family is all among the living then our lives aren’t really too bad. At the same time, it should be even more important to show some empathy towards those arounds us.
    Maybe a good start would be to NOT call families out JUST FOR MISSING THEIR DEPLOYED LOVED ONES.

  24. (quote) A heart ache that cannot be understood by the average person and is only reserved for those that carry the title Military Spouse.(/end quote)

    I disagree with this statement wholeheartedly. I’m a military member, and my spouse is also a military member. We have one young son together. I think we feel even worse at times, as when I last deployed and had to leave behind my 6-month old son. My husband not only had to say goodbye and worry about me getting blown up, but had the added stress of being a full-time working single father. And if he were to get tasked as well? Try dealing with that fiasco. Yes, military spouses can find a lot to complain about. I’d like to see them deal with our situation, even for a minute.

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