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When I return from a deployment or long TDY

The title of this blog could be: My respect for the military spouse!

I faced many long TDYs, lengthy separations and one deployment as a unit during my 30 years on active duty so I thought maybe I could share my personal feelings about coming home! In one case I had been assigned to an overseas base that was supposed to be a sponsored tour with my family but there was no housing available for 6 months. I had been TDY for 4 months prior to moving overseas while doing some training. So when my family joined me it had been almost a ten month separation. Over the length of my career I was gone approximately 5 years! Try explaining that to a civilian as a job requirement! I know that my away time does not compare to most of you reading this. The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have service members deploying 3 times within 5 years!

There is a different way to look at me being gone: my lovely bride took care of our kids (including the delivery of our middle child), the cars, the house and the bills all by herself for 5 years! Some of my trips were short one or two day TDYs, but many were at least a month so she dealt with the emergency room runs, broken household items, car problems and a myriad of life challenges by herself!

So... what about my feelings when I came home or my family joined me after a long separation? First, I loved my job and TDYs usually involved flying so I was busy and usually came home tired but eager to resume a normal lifestyle. My first thought walking in the door after greeting everyone was a sense of relief and a desire to hear how things went while I was gone and to relax. Sometimes there were family events or challenges that created tension and I just didn't want to face those right away. One time I came home after a busy TDY schedule to a house that was just "down". We needed to rejuvenate and I did too. We decided to go on a family getaway during a very convenient 3 day weekend! We lived near the Gulf Coast where we found a hotel on the beach. We just relaxed, ate out and walked and played on the beach! One of our favorite family pictures (we had a large copy made and framed) is of the kids on the beach. The three of them stood by the water's edge while gulls flew overhead. They threw crackers into the air, whic the sea gulls caught. We went from a tough time to wonderful memories!

I always tried to under spend on TDYs so we could have a few extra dollars on my return for couple or family events. I felt very lonely sometimes and had a strong urge to reconnect with the family but particularly with Deb so if we had a chance; we went out. But I really needed assimilation time. I also knew that I needed to hear discussions about the normal life challenges our children faced. This often let me feel guilty about missing the ball games, plays, parent teacher conferences, birthday parties and holidays. I still have very strong feelings about not being there for the birth of our second child, too!

Sometimes the "hubbub" around the house could be unnerving for someone not used to being around kids! I went from working and living with only adults to rejoining a household of activity. I had spent "off time" watching TV or working out. Therefore, the conflicts, tears and discussions sometimes got to me and I had return to being a dad which was something I loved. The strains were easily noticed by the kids too, but we always found a way to find time for each other. One strong tear jerker was highlighted when I was leaving on a commercial flight for a TDY. As I entered the gate to get on the plane my 5 year old cried out "Daddy, you're cracking my heart ". I had to return on that one and give him a special hug! When I turned to head out, the gate attendants were in tears as was I. Interesting that this son had the dream of supporting the military community with the internet and started MilitaryAvenue.com as a method to assist military families with the challenges of our lifestyle!

So how do you respond to a lengthy separation and a coming home? Do you have any family routines that might help others as they face this challenge? We would like to hear them and we know your ideas will help others, too! Also, do you have any fears or questions? Send them our way so we can respond or one of our readers can help too!

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