When I meet other Blue Star parents who are facing deployment for the first time, often one of the first questions I get is “how much communication do you get during deployment?” and “How can I stay connected when he (or she) is so far away?”
These are tough questions to answer. Some of it depends on the branch of the military your son or daughter is in, and what his or her occupation in that branch is, and how you and your son or daughter’s communication is now. Another very important variable is where he or she will be deploying!
Communication has changed over the years and it will probably continue to change. The important thing is to communicate however works best for your service member!
Communication Frequency will Vary
My son’s first deployment was to Iraq during the troop surge in 2007. He started in Baghdad where there was a larger base, fewer missions (at that time) and more internet and phone access. We chatted pretty regularly via the phone, email and instant messaging. Communication was easier with all of the access and a large mail room. Packages initially got to him pretty quickly. That all changed when he left Baghdad for the missions he worked on in the Diyala Province.
He moved to a much smaller FOB and was “outside the wire” more than he was in. His missions were long and he was in a Stryker (a military combat vehicle). He sometimes went for several weeks with no communication at all. He wasn’t even really able to write during those times, because he had no where during missions to send letters from. Communication was spotty at best.
The value of handwritten letters should never be underestimated; these are like gold!
Mike’s second deployment was different. He had more access, but this time he was married (he was single during the first deployment). Of course I totally expected his primary communication to be with his wife. She was very good to us and kept us informed of how he was doing. He also could access Facebook a little.
The Forward Operating Base (FOB) your military member is going to may offer some amenities such as wireless internet coffee shops, computer labs, etc. Some FOBs do not offer these amenities and have more limited computer, internet and phone access.
If your son or daughter is on Facebook or twitter, now is the time for you jump onto the social media bandwagon if you haven’t already. My son could not post much, but sometimes just seeing he has logged in and ‘liked’ something was an indicator to me that he was well.
Now is a time to carry on the sweet connection that happens with the written word. Do not be upset if your son or daughter can not write back all the time. Just write to keep him or her connected to home.
Send care packages filled with things you know will incite good memories! If Cracker Jacks was her favorite snack as a child send her enough for her own stash and some to share with friends. Send him a move box filled with favorite treats and a DVD of his favorite movie.
Be patient. I know very personally how hard it is to wait for that phone call when communication is spotty. However, I learned quickly to take what I was offered, be grateful for the little bit I got and when he called I didn’t overwhelm him with stuff. I really let him do most of the talking. It was just a joy to sit back and hear his voice on the other end of the phone!
If you do not have a cell phone, or if you are like me and leave it lying around where you can’t hear it, change that now. You will really regret it if you don’t find a way to keep your cell phone turned up when you can. Sit near an exit at movies and church and other gatherings. This way if your phone vibrates and it’s your son or daughter you can quickly leave to answer the call!
Be flexible! Your son or daughter may be able to call some weeks and not others. Nothing in the military is guaranteed, and regular communication is never promised.
Adrienne May is a military spouse. Her husband is an Army soldier and now is serving in the Army National Guard. Together they have three children from preschool to pre-teen. Adrienne has a Bachelors Degree in Sociology & Non-Profit Management, and is actively involved in family readiness and disaster preparedness on the state level. She spends her free time advocating for military family programs, homecoming transition programs and adequate veterans benefits.
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Adrienne May maintains Military Family Central for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation's leading VA-approved lender. As a mom of three, from toddler to teenager, and wife to a National Guard solider, Adrienne has built up a massive library of resources, tips, articles and contributors for military families of all shapes, sizes and branches!