It was a Saturday in mid-May. We were having a squadron spouses coffee to celebrate making it to the end of a long inspection week. Except, like most things that week, nothing was going as planned for our sponsoring members. Most of them were at work thanks to problems earlier in the week. Problems that had caused people to be called in on off days and problems that almost caused my husband to work a 24 hour shift. He managed to find the bodies to not have to do that. And the guys who had to come in on their off day got the next day off in exchange.
She’d been complaining all week. She’d turned to me for moral support while railing against the people on the phone who called her husband in from his off day. Never mind that that person was my husband and that he’d done so after calling me 15 hours after he went to work to say he wasn’t sure he was coming home that night. She was young. She was pregnant. And she was livid. Angry that her husband was at work. Angry that they’d lost his planned off day (never mind that he didn’t get called in until after 1800; never mind that he got the next day off). Angry that the Commander had promised that the new schedule meant not getting called in on off days.
We managed to talk her down. I intervened a lot to soothe her frustrations without the other spouses jumping all over her. We were all tired. We were all stressed. We just wanted to hear that we’d passed so there wouldn’t be the 90 days of hell that follow a failed inspection. After she was gone, one of our senior spouses made the comment, “What else do you expect from a pre-deployment spouse.”
I am a pre-deployment spouse. I was then, I still am, and depending on our next duty station I may always be one. My husband was ineligible for deployment from his first base due to his career field. Believe me he tried. I think he’d been on station for all of three days when he walked in and asked about volunteering for a 365 just to get out of that place. They turned him down. A year later he was accepted into the WCAP program and we went to Germany. He was definitely ineligible for deployment then. And now we are here, our third duty station in less than four years of active service. Guess what? His career field is once again ineligible for deployment from this location.
Yet, I understand the sentiment behind the comment. When your spouse deploys, you aren’t worried about them making it home for dinner, you just want them to make it home. It is no longer about them missing a day off and instead about them missing an anniversary, a birthday, holidays, and even births. It changes from being lonely because their schedule leaves you alone every night for dinner, to learning to forge through the loneliness of not seeing them for 6 months.
But I’m still on the first side of that divide. The longest time we’ve been apart was a six week separation while we were still dating. He was safe in ND and I was safe in TX, we just weren’t together. The furthest we’ve been apart was me in Germany and him in various parts of the States for short TDYs. Anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays are celebrated when his schedule allows, but it’s generally within a week of the actual date. Not months later, if at all.
I am lucky, and that is something I need to remember more often.