By Jenn Cobbel, former NMCB 4 Ombudsman and Family Readiness Group President
Independence Day comes but once a year. But to military spouses, the word “independence” has perhaps a different meaning for a large chunk of the year when your spouse is deployed. You know what I’m talking about. Deployment. This one word can bring with it a rush of emotion from anticipation, excitement, anger, sorrow and joy, just to name a few. And each depends on where you are in the deployment cycle.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word “independence” means the quality or state of being not subject to control by others, not requiring or relying on someone or something else. As Seabee spouses, we each have our way of dealing with this newfound independence when our husband, wife or partner is deployed – sometimes whether we realize it or not.
My husband Dave is currently going through C school at Great Lakes. I have been a military spouse for 12 years, through nine deployments, six moves and countless other life events. At one time or another, I think I have experienced every emotion that comes along with being on the other end of deployment, aka independent.
From December 2006 to April 2012, we were stationed in Port Hueneme, Calif. While there, my husband deployed four times: Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan (twice). However, this doesn’t count the C schools he attended and field exercises he did while there, too. That’s a lot of time away from home for Dave – and a lot of independence for me.
Our daughter, Bailey, and I have figured out what works for us while Papa is gone. The day he leaves for a deployment, we mail him his first box. I call it the “dessert box.” It has his favorites in it: 64-oz. bag of M&Ms, a jar of peanut butter, and special milk in a box. After we get home from the post office, we set up another goodie box. Each box contains things we know he will miss, pictures of us and anything else we think he can’t live without. Bailey and I send him a box every pay day until the mail gets cut off. That’s a good thing because it means Papa and the Seabees are coming home soon.
While Dave is gone, Bailey does a Papa Chain. These are links of construction paper which she connects. She adds one link for every day that Papa is gone, and usually works on it once a week. On her links she will write messages to Dave, such as what she has been up to or how she is feeling about him being gone. We tack her Papa Chain up all around her room. By the time he comes home it usually goes all the way around her room and sometimes overlaps. This also serves as Bailey’s homecoming decoration for him, and it’s something she has done all by herself.
As for me when Dave is gone, I try to stay busy. I do lots of volunteering with the Command and Bailey’s school, and I also work from home. When Dave comes home, I love sharing the list of “Things that broke while Dave was gone.” During each deployment, I keep a notebook of everything that broke. These are not funny when they actually happen, but when we look back on them together they’re pretty hysterical! My list from our last deployment looked like this:
Things that broke while Dave was gone:
• House – sand bags needed to prevent flooding from street.
• Truck – leaking water from the 3rd brake light.
• Refrigerator – enough said.
• My toenail – I fell in the bushes putting up Christmas lights with flip-flops on.
During deployment, sometimes I think that the house, Bailey and our dogs know that Dave is gone and try to revolt. You may be thinking that I’m kidding. I’m not.
But when your Seabee comes home, the house, truck, fridge and toenail don’t seem that major anymore. And for the time being, independence is very overrated.