When it comes to preparing for a deployment there are countless resources to go along with those countless situations you will need to prepare for. When it comes to acts of nature there was an article from militaryspouse.com that is a great resource of how to know if you are prepared or not (You can read it here.)
Acts of nature are not the only thing you need to prepare for. You have to get the house and family ready for deployment too. You need to have people you can count on when you need a hand, because you will need a hand from time to time. You need to know all the bank information, the bills your spouse handles, where insurance information is, and have that gut-renching conversation of what both your and your spouses wishes are if the unthinkable happens.
There is one thing that you can never prepare for though. You can never prepare for the unknown. There is chance that a situation will arise that will make you feel both helpless and completely lost. This is my story of an event that left me feeling completely helpless.
One afternoon I was putting away groceries when my phone rang. It was a college friend calling to check in. The first words out of his mouth were, “Where is your hubby at again?” After I answered with location x* (the nickname of his location), my friend let out a sigh of relief and followed up with, “oh good, because location y* was just attacked.” I felt tears filling my eyes as my knees went weak. As I sat on the floor I struggled to get out the words, “location y is the real name of the base, location x is its nickname.” The phone went silent. All I could say was I had to go, and my friend made me promise I would call back if I need anything.
I do not remember much that happened over the next couple hours. I made the mistake of turning on the news, and watching this never ending loop of smoke bellowing out of an area that I knew my husband was in, somewhere. I could not focus. All I could do was sit there. After hours of hearing nothing, I did what I promised myself I would never do. I called people that work with my husband. I called and asked the question I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the answer to. I asked, “now what?” I knew even if they knew what was going on there was no way they would tell me, I wouldn’t be in the “need to know…”
I knew I had called the right person when he answered and quickly informed me he didn’t know anything, but he could break down some basics for me…
- The base is big, very big.
- Base communications would be cut off and could be for hours or days. It may be a while before I know anything.
- If my husband was okay I would hear from him soon.
- If my husband was hurt I would get a call from Red Cross, and someone would contact me and get me the information of where my husband would be located, if he would be sent elsewhere for treatment and if I would be able to go see him.
- If something serious happened to my husband, his commander here stateside would come to the house to talk to me, and the person I called informed me he talked to the commander and would make sure he was also present for this meeting, so there would be a familiar face.
- My husband’s co-worker told me to call a girlfriend have them come over, watch a movie, avoid the news as well as my cell phone.
- Don’t answer your cell phone unless it is me (the co-worker), or a number you don’t know. If its friends and extended family, just text them you don’t know and you will call when you do. DO NOT try to talk to everyone, they will just make every second longer and harder.
I took his advice and called a friend. She came over, overnight bag in hand. Right after she arrived I had a knock at my door. As I opened it, there stood a man in uniform. I couldn’t breath. With a big smile on his face, he asked, “My son left our dog out, by chance you didn’t see a white dog running around did you?” I don’t even remember if I answered him. All I can remember is shaking my head and closing the door.
My friend and I watched movies while I sat staring at my phone, attempting to will it to ring. Late that night, it rang. A number I didn’t know. The voice on the other end was not one I recognized. I could feel tears in my eyes as soon as he said, “Is this Mrs….?” Once I confirmed I was who he was looking for he had only one sentence for me. “Ma’am, your husband has been accounted for.” When I asked what this meant. He informed me, “It means, ma’am, that he is alive, and right not that is all I know.”
You would think this would have made me giddy with joy, and it did, for about a minute. After that minute of joy all I could think was, was he okay, was he hurt, was he thinking of me, how long before I know.
Sometime in the early morning hours, my phone rang. Another number I didn’t know. I answered and the voice on the other end was one of the most beautiful sounds in the world, it was my husband. All he said was, “baby,” and I broke down. I was flooded with feelings of joy and relief. I can’t even tell you what we talked about, because I have no idea. All I know is I got to tell my husband I loved him, and got to hear him say he loved me back…the one thing I prayed for all night.
My husband was unhurt, and yet after we hung up I had this overwhelming feeling of guilt and sadness. I was beyond lucky, my husband was okay, and yet all I could think about was, about those poor spouses and family members that didn’t get that call from their loved ones. All I could think about was those spouses that opened their doors to men in uniform and received the news that every family fears.
Deployments are scary. There are so many unknown possibilities that you can never be prepared for, all you can do is find a good support system to be there to hold you up when you can’t stand on your own.
*For security reasons I will not be disclosing the location’s name.