color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: SO YOUR CHILD IS BEING DEPLOYED...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

SO YOUR CHILD IS BEING DEPLOYED...

[updated 11:00PM... from comments] and be sure to check out the comments - there are a lot of experienced voices talking there!
I have had a number of emails from parents asking for advice about their child being deployed and what can they expect? (and most of this goes for spouses, too!) If you have other things to share, feel free to put them in the comments!

Well, here’s what we learned and pass on to those of you with recently deployed or about-to-be deployed soldiers (marines, sailors, airmen):

Take nothing for granted. So you think your child knows you love them? Tell them anyway and every chance you get. They’ll get miffed and frustrated at times telling you, “I know [Ma] [Dad]!” Ignore them. Tell them anyway. No one has ever said, “Gosh I wish I hadn’t told him or her one more time how much I loved them.”

Get paperwork. Get multiple copies of their power of attorney. Make sure it covers the types of transactions you’ve agreed to be responsible for – banking, insurance, property transactions. Get separate POAs that cover different situations if you need. Make sure you either have or know where all the rest of his/her papers are (car title? lease? Will?) Oh -- and a copy of their deployment orders... some vendors require these to discontinue service without a penalty (cell phone companies, for example) or to cancel a lease. Be sure to remove ALL of the social security numbers from the copy you send to anyone (I put a piece of paper over that column when I copied the orders.)

Deployment is one big roller coaster ride. Hang on – it’s going to be one hell of a ride! They’re leaving. They’re delayed. They’re leaving. They call. They don’t call. They’re in Kuwait. They’re leaving for the AO (area of operations). They arrived. They email. They get internet. You have a pc camera. The internet is down. The phones are down. Everything’s down. They’re going on a week’s mission. They’re back. They’re getting R&R. It’s not for 6 more months. UpDownUpDownUpDown. It's a long year.

If you don’t already have one, get a passport. We will all pray you will never need it except for vacations, but it can save you a day or two in travel time while someone tries to arrange this for you if you need it later. Be aware, that very few families have to travel outside the U.S. even when their child is injured. It is only the rarest of circumstances in which you might need to travel.

Communication is key to their mental survival. Send mail. Get their friends to send mail. Aunts, Uncles, cousins. Send postcards. Send cards. Send pictures. Send newspapers. Send their high school or college newspaper. Email. They might not respond as frequently as you write (or as often as you’d like) – but don’t let that stop you (after all, they are fighting a war). Your letters and cards take a measley 37 cent stamp. Include pre-addressed post cards and envelopes to make it easier for them to write you (they do not need stamps -- they mail letters and cards for free). And remember, if there are breaks in communications (no email or IM suddenly) repeat after me: No.News.Is.Good.News.'Cause.Bad.News.Travels.Fast.

And since you’re reading this, you have a computer, but if you don’t have it yet – get one or more instant messenger programs (download them free from AOL AIM, MSN, Yahoo...) and learn to use it! Your soldier will have access to computers and most have a number of instant messenger programs (a real-time conversation via typing.) It’s the way you and the soldier will most often communicate more than any other. You can program sounds to signal whenever he (or his buddies) are online. Even if you don’t want to jump up and have a conversation in the middle of the night (you say that now…), you will be able to determine that they were online while you were asleep or out and it will give you some peace of mind (really). And you can forward it to your cell phone or other wireless device (like a Blackberry). You never have to be out of touch with your soldier.

From Melinda and Stacy: absolutely invest in a WEBCAM for you and your soldier (they really aren't that expensive). Stacy says it's absolutely priceless to see your soldier's smiling face -- LIVE! and Melinda also says that's a must (and these are two women I would absolutely believe!) Melinda further says "a mini-tape recorder with the microcassettes are small & easy to pack as well as durable" because there is nothing like a soldier hearing voices from home and for those at home to hear their daddy's (or son's or hubby's) voice... and she says making movies of the family and sending are fun for all the soldiers and not just your soldier.

Send STUFF. Send packages. Send their favorite food. Send books, comic books, magazines, DVDs, music, games, and their favorite things. Ask what they need, but even when they say they don’t need anything, send something. Send happy stuff -- you know whatever makes them laugh or feel good. [We recorded our son's favorite television shows (with commercials -- they love the commercials!) and those DVDs got passed around to everyone -- it was a part of home.] Be sure to learn the mailing rules – no porn, no pork, no alcohol. Don’t worry about sending too much – unfortunately, they have brother soldiers who rarely get any mail and your soldier will share. Go to your Post Office and ask for FLAT RATE BOXES and CUSTOMS FORMS. Get to know your postal clerks -- they are on their third or fourth deployments and they are a wealth of information!

NOTE: If you order things to be sent to your soldier, DO NOT HAVE THEM SENT DIRECTLY TO THE SOLDIER. You will have no way of knowing whether they were ever sent or received (happened a few times). After the first few months, we learned to have things (gloves, goggles, clothing) shipped to us and then we re-packaged it in flat rate boxes to him. And it's my understanding that you CAN get tracking receipts to most of the postal facilities in the "093" zip codes.

Support their efforts. No matter what you read elsewhere or what your feelings about the war are, support their efforts. It isn’t about you. They need to hear that you appreciate their sacrifice and efforts. If you can’t say something nice, say nothing. BE PROUD of your son/daughter. Be VERY proud ‘cause damn they’re good!

If they're not telling, Don’t ask. There are some things your soldier can’t talk about. There are things your soldier doesn’t want to talk about. Don’t push it. When they want to talk, they will. If he’s in the listening mood, you talk. If he’s in the talking mood, listen. Try not to add to their stress. Don’t argue with them. Let them blow off steam – they aren’t angry at you most of the time. If a conversation seems to upset them – get off the subject, change it or agree with them. They have plenty else on their minds and they shouldn’t have to worry about you. You can smack them up side the head for being disrespectful when they get home.

Educate yourself. Don’t believe everything the mainstream media tells you. In addition to reading the news sites and these milblogs, look for specific information from the Army (or Marines or Navy). Most units have an official website while soldiers are deployed with mailing addresses, contact information for the Rear Detachment, the FRG, etc. The sites also usually include newsletters from the unit commanders in the field and the Brigade and Battalion through the course of the deployment. The letters won’t give you detailed information on operations, but they make you feel connected to your soldier and they will tell you generally about their camp (or Forward Operating Base (FOB)) and what they are doing promotions, births, etc. And they usually have some pictures! It will do you a world of good. Really.

Join support groups. Get on the Family Readiness Group (FRG) email list. If you are local to your soldier’s duty station, involve yourself with the FRG. [Look at sites like www.support3id.com, www.SpouseBuzz.com, www.military.com, etc.]There are also private support group websites started and maintained by family members during the deployment. Find them – they are a wealth of information and rumor/myth busting and a hand to hold and shoulder to cry on when you’re down. Keep yourself busy with other things. That will be hard as keeping track of your soldier and trying to communicate with your soldier will consume a lot of your non-working (and in some cases working) time. You will think about them night and day. All perfectly normal, but they want you to have a life. As Noah said, “That’s why we’re here – so you can live normally there.” So do it.

Stacy also reminds us to do a scrapbook... The Society for the 3rd ID had commemorative "Back to Iraq 2005" t-shirts that they sold... and bumper stickers, pins, etc. so I ordered some of those and put them away for him. I have also printed and saved news articles, my blog entries, the battalion and unit newsletters and put them all in 3-ring binders (there are now Volumes I, II and III). They may not appreciate it now, but they will (a) when they have children, and/or (b) they write their memoirs (wink). They will have tangible reminders that they made history...

HERE’S A FEW REQUESTS FOR CO’s AND NCO’s

Try to insist that your soldiers give someone’s name to the FRG so that they have someone getting the emails.

Put out a newsletter regularly (not just occasionally). Yes, we know you’re running a war over there – but these newsletters are a precious link to our soldier and we count on that information. We LIVE for any information about their situation we can get our hands on (and it goes a long way to stopping the rumor mill back home.)

Please show parents the same respect and involvement that you show to spouses. Be sure your FRG includes parents and girlfriends and be sure your single soldiers know they can be included!

HERE’S SOME ADVICE FOR SOLDIERS:

Call, write or email often -- but at least every once in a while. Yes, dammmit, we know you’re busy and Yes, dammmmit, we know you’re tired. But we are sitting back here worrying night and day. No, you telling us a thousand times, “Don’t worry” will not make us not worry. Believe it or not, not only do we worry about you, but we are actually interested in how you are and what you’re doing, what you need... We’re not asking for a body count, but we would like to know what you’re experiencing. A simple, “Hi all! We’re doing fine. We’re safe and thinking of you. Going to get some sleep now. Love you all… [insert name here} will do.

Get used to the fact that we (your parents) will cry.
We will cry when you leave. Cry when you come home on R&R. Cry when you leave after R&R. And we’ll cry when you get home. Get used to it. It just is. It's liquid love and it runs from our hearts to our eyes...

Copyright Some Soldier's Mom 2005. All rights reserved.

19 Comments:

At 12/08/2005 4:35 PM , Blogger Melinda said...

I will add to the computer part...for wives/girlfriends and especially those w/kids--WEBCAM. If your soldier will ever be somewhere where there is a slight chance one will be available, you'll want to be sure you have one. They are inexpensive & even I figured out how to use it!

Also, for those with wee ones, don't underestimate the power of video & hearing those little voices. I videotaped my girls endlessly & spent time making movies in MovieMaker (way easy!), burning them to CD's and sending them over. Hubs' buddies loved watching them too...a little bit of home.

It IS a rollercoaster. That is for sure. If you lean on those who have btdt, though, it can go more smoothly sometimes.

 
At 12/08/2005 4:35 PM , Blogger Crazy Politico said...

Where were you when I first joined the Navy and they told us to "figure it out!", this would have been such a help.

You get two links at my place for tonight.

 
At 12/08/2005 4:37 PM , Blogger Melinda said...

Oh! and one more...a mini-tape recorder with the microcassettes are small & easy to pack as well as durable.

I would send Hubs "letters" from the girls on tape & he would return the favor. It was a nice way to stay in touch & for them to be able to hear his voice. Time differences sometimes make a call from Daddy seem a long time in coming.

 
At 12/08/2005 7:43 PM , Blogger BetsyB. said...

SSM,
I love your blog. You need to write a book. You put everything I am thinking and feeling into words. You do every mother, wife, girlfriend, loved one and soldier a great service by putting your thoughts on this site. Thank you.

Good News... my son is back in the US. He may be on his way back to Mississippi by tomorrow. WhooHooo...:):)

 
At 12/08/2005 8:17 PM , Blogger Stacy said...

Digital cameras and web cams are an absolute must. You will feel much better once you see that grin on your soldier's face. SSM, I will never forget the first I saw my soldier on the web cam. I think I cried for an hour. What a great day it was for me.

Start a scrapbook. It was a way for me to pass time. On yahoo IM you can doodle and play games and then print them out and yes cry each and every single time you look at them. Save instant messages and emails. I can not tell you how many times that I have gone back and read through my stack.

Your soldier really needs a laptop.

This was a wonderful idea SSM. If we can help just one parent, spouse, girlfriend or child, it is all worth it.

TIME CAPSULE...So much fun. 10-20 years from now, my son can take his children with him and dig the time capsule up. He is going to be so surprised when he sees what is in there.

I will probablly think of so many other things after I finish.

Thanks again SSM.

 
At 12/08/2005 8:32 PM , Anonymous brondaboo said...

SSM
I have really found peace with the words of wisdom and ideas you give on your blog site. My soldier will be leaving shortly and I am really feeling a lot of the things you write about. It's not as much fun being a mom sitting here waiting when your little man is no longer "playing" army in the woods around your house. Thanks for all you put into words. It really helps.

 
At 12/08/2005 8:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW!! You're amazing at the way that you put all that into words. My brother was just deployed last Sunday for Iraq and it has been tought knowing that he will be in harm's way but on the other hand I know that he is fighting for his country. Thanks for this recent post. It really helps to know that they're others out there going through the same thing. Your blog is good; I really enjoy reading it.

 
At 12/09/2005 6:27 AM , Blogger yankeemom said...

Absolutely terrific! You are a blessing for those at home! Thank You for posting all that you do.

 
At 12/09/2005 6:40 AM , Blogger Greta (Hooah Wife) said...

Stay away from the MSM news!

Don't do a countdown of days until they get home -it always changes!

Stay away from family and friends that don't support the war!!! I have skipped Thanksgiving 2 years in a row because of that!

Get busy!!! Do those projects you haven't been able to get to do for this reason or that.

 
At 12/09/2005 7:21 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a world of GREAT information! Sure do wish that we'd had some of that information when our #1 son went to Afghanistan, although some of it wouldn't have worked as his FOB was truly in the middle of NO WHERE and when they got there nothing was there but the dirt. They had to set the whole thing up and it was 7 1/2 months before they even had electricy, let alone computers, they were just glad to have heat before winter set in (which happened to be the worse winter in they didn't know how long!). Because they finally did get electricy when he was home on R&R he shipped himself a microwave and that made life a bit more tolarable. So check and see if your soldier has a microwave available to him/her because there are lots of microwave foods that help them remember home!
Your posts are wonderful to read and wish I'd found you sooner...but since I have I've added Noah to my prayer list for a full recovery.
Sign me...
Mom of 2 in the Army and 1 in the Air Force and a Nephew in the Navy...Supporting ALL Our Troops!

 
At 12/09/2005 10:06 AM , Anonymous Agnieszka O. said...

Also to soldiers who have young children - videotape yourself before the deployment reading short/favorite books so when you away your children can still have a “bedtime story” with you.
I mailed a lot of children’s books, blank tapes and video mailers to troops in Afghanistan so they could record and mail the tapes to families.
And remember to check AnySoldier.com site if you notice that your fellow Soldiers/Marines are not getting letters or care packages.
Even when we don’t have anybody that we know “over there” - we, the strangers, "adopt", care, and support the troops as much as we can!
And we worry too...

 
At 12/09/2005 4:59 PM , Blogger Shelley said...

What a wonderful and informative post SSM, for families and soldiers who are called to endure these deployments. Webcams are a must...not only so our soldier can see us...but so we can see them too. The best thing for us was being able to actually "see" David alive and well, via webcam....see that beautiful smile of his.

I will add....never give up hope, never stop saying prayers for their safe return. There have been so many times this year when we were terrified (during those blackout periods) that something had happened to him. He made it tho.....he is now back on American soil (down in Georgia debriefing) and will be home for good late next week. We have been truly blessed...and wish safe return for all of our soldiers. It's been a long long year. Faith, hope, love and sites like yours are what have kept us going! Thank you.....

 
At 12/09/2005 6:04 PM , Anonymous Andi said...

Wow, what a fantastic post. It's loaded with great advice - for everyone! I especially like your advice to soldiers

Yes, dammmit, we know you’re busy and Yes, dammmmit, we know you’re tired. But we are sitting back here worrying night and day. No, you telling us a thousand times, “Don’t worry” will not make us not worry.

Well said, and right on target.

 
At 12/09/2005 6:18 PM , Anonymous Andi said...

One more thing, pick out some photos that will make your soldier happy. Cut them down to wallet size and laminate them.

Photos corrode in the sand, obviously they're more durable when laminated.

How many times a day do you suppose soldiers take photos out of their wallets and recall the memories? It's important for them to have these pieces of home with them.

 
At 12/09/2005 9:33 PM , Blogger Wayne's Mom said...

I'll put in my 'Amen' to your advice.

Here's one habit I started: After you share an Instant Message conversation, copy and paste it, either to your calendar or to a plain document to save as part of your scrapbook.

Emails are easy to save, but I didn't think of saving IM conversations until a few months into deployment.

Great work! I'll link to this one in my sidebar.

 
At 12/10/2005 2:11 AM , Anonymous Maddie said...

I really love your advice, I don't think I ever thought about sending my fiance a tape recording. I'll definitely keep that in mind when he goes back in september. As to what Wayne's Mom said...Definitely save the IM's, you can go back and read them over and over it helps a lot. That was something I was very glad to have, I actually still have all of those. And as to Crazy Politico's comment, yea I'd like to know where you were when he was in the Navy, you could have given me advice on how to deal with my daddy being gone. *yes that's my father* Thank you for this webpage, it's great to see so much support for the men and women out there!!!!

 
At 12/10/2005 12:01 PM , Anonymous Rachel said...

If you use Microsoft's messenger, there's a plug-in called Messenger Plus (http://www.msgplus.net/index.php) that allows you to keep an archive of all the chat conversations you have. It is nice to have that done automatically in case you forget to copy and paste it.

It also can keep track of when people log off and on so you'll know if someone logged in while you're sleeping.

It comes with a "sponsor program" that you can skip on install.

Yahoo IM has an option to archive your conversations too.

 
At 5/23/2006 7:25 AM , Blogger Call Me Grandma said...

Another piece of advise, visit Some Soldier Mom regularly. She is one smart lady.
Start yourself a blog. You can keep family and friends, in the know, on the happenings with your soldier. You can keep your soldier in the know...if he is fortunate enough to have computer access.
My adventure is coming to a close, so I am proof that this does end. It is not a permanent thing. Keep the faith!

 
At 8/01/2008 1:50 PM , Anonymous Trish Sanchez said...

I would like to know if we can send those prepaid cell phones to soldiers to use with minute cards? My husbands son asked for calling cards but we thought that sending him a cell phone would be better. Are they allowed to have this? Please let me know!

Thanks for the information.

 

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