I recently began training for my second deployment overseas in the Army. Even though I and my wife have gone through this before, this is the first-time I’ve had to spend such a long time away from home after having kids. I’ve spent time away from home for various training missions, but those typically only last between a weekend and a couple of weeks.
Throughout my career, I’ve met a lot of people who’ve deployed while having kids at home but I never really understood what it was like to leave your family behind for such a long period of time. Sure, I’ve left my wife, my parents, and my siblings for extended periods and haven’t thought twice about it, but leaving a child – who is going through so many developmental changes and milestones is something completely different.
The day I left was hard. The night before, my family got very little sleep because my son had contracted a bug and was throwing up all throughout. In the morning, I knew I had to leave but I hated that I had to go with him not feeling well. As a father, you never like to see your kids sick, but knowing that you can’t do anything for them is even worse.
When I left, he was on the couch with his mom watching his favorite show, Curious George. He didn’t pay much attention to me because, well, if you take your eyes off George for a minute you know he’s going to get himself in trouble. I wasn’t mad though, watching that little monkey create mischief was a way for him to feel better and it was easier for me to get out the door on time if he didn’t see me leave.
That wasn’t the way I wanted to go, but it also wasn’t going to be the last time I saw him before I left for the long trip. This was just a few weeks of training, nothing I hadn’t done before, but I knew it was the preamble to what would be coming soon.
Although it was hard, I left the house feeling good. Thanks to the Army’s Yellow Ribbon Program, the support of our friends and family, and the blessing that is communication technology, I think my wife and I – as well as our son, even though he’s too young to really know what’s going on – are prepared for this.
With the exception of a few things around the house I need to take care of the few days I have at home after this training, we’ve made arrangements to manage things around the house, have family staying over while I’m gone, and gathered materials for my son to help him understand why daddy isn’t home.
A number of years ago, after a colleague of mine separated from the military and had his first kid, I remember him posting on Facebook about how he couldn’t imagine deploying after his daughter was born. At the time, I thought, “people just do it, it’s their job and they must be used to be away from their family all the time.”
Now I have a different tone, I now know what it’s like to be a father in the military and can appreciate where his head was at back then.
I’m not concerned about this deployment from the military aspect, I’ve trained for years to become proficient at my job, but it may also be the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do, as well. I hope you’ll follow my adventures and enjoy reading my stories about what it’s like to be a deployed dad.