Wendy Poling
Frequent Contributor

Many military spouses have certain traditions on "Day 1" of a deployment or long separation. This fascinates me on two levels, one that they actually plan what to do in advance versus being in complete and full denial right up until the end (speaking from personal experience). And two these military spouses have been through enough deployments to even have a tradition. Eventually, all of us settle into our own deployment day traditions whether we realize it or not.


When I think of past deployments, the day always seems to start before dawn. There isn't much sleep the night before so I'm usually tired before the day even begins. It's a quiet morning with not many words, only last minute "don't forget to" suggestions and eventually loading up in the truck. He tosses in his sea bag in that is filled with enough hand written letters and cards to last the entire deployment, a half-way night box filled will favorite things, and a few notes secretly tucked away into uniform pockets.


On the way to the pier, we usually stop at a single Sailors home that needs a ride. The atmosphere inside the truck is very quiet even though I notice they are very excited and anxious. My mood is apprehensive and I feel like I'm in slow motion, trying to make these minutes last as long as possible.


At the pier all the important things have been said except for the goodbyes or the "see you soon". Fighting back tears, there are last chance hugs and kisses. Other cars pull in the parking lot and even though I might recognize a car or two I don't dare wave or even try to start a conversation. It's radio silence as we each deal with this painful moment as privately as possible.


I always wonder what my husband thinks as he walks away, through the gate and ultimately down into the waiting submarine. The one thing I hope goes through his mind is that he trusts I will take care of our family. That I will handle life's curve balls as best as I can.

As I stand there on the pier and catch my first glimpse of her in the water. I stare and say a silent prayer that he comes back to me safe and sound. I pray for strength to get through the next months until I find myself back on the pier and instead of pajamas/sweat pants, I'm in a fancy new outfit. I also pray for the courage to enjoy the journey and not isolate myself, as I am prone to do.


As far as my deployment day tradition, I prefer to have somewhere to be...for example a trip planned that takes my focus and energy away from fixating on the fact my spouse is now gone and I don't when, if or how often I will hear from him. If "the day" happens to fall on a weekday in the middle of a school year, I plan a day away from home with other spouses. I take the day off from work. We usually have a pretty good idea when the boat will travel out to sea. We get as close as we can to farthest point out, following the boat down the coastline and watch until she is well out at sea and then eventually completely out of sight. All the while I wonder what he is doing at that exact moment. It is both exciting to see the submarine and watch her move through the water, but in the same breath heartbreaking to know he is not coming home for a long, long time and will most likely miss birthdays, special holidays and our anniversary. Just when it's almost too painful to bear, there comes a moment of pride in knowing we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that is where the strength comes from to endure, to desire to support the other spouses and to gain strength from each other in our shared sacrifice.


What traditions do you have on the day your spouse leaves for deployment or a long separation?


Related story:

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