7 Simple Tools That Will Make Deployment Easier On The Family

Photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy Norris

Deployments can present challenges for military families. They worry about their loved ones who are called to duty, and are sometimes stressed by things on the home front as well. Much of how a deployment turns out for a military family is unpredictable. However, there's a lot about a deployment that one can plan and prepare for, such as sharing of certain responsibilities, quality communication, identifying key resources like child care services and legal counsel, to name a few.

Thankfully, there are various digital resources available to help military families during deployments.Here are seven tools that have great reviews, many of which I’ve personally benefited from, and can be helpful in easing the deployment process.

1. Sandboxx

A friend recently pointed me to Sandboxx, and I’m glad she did. When it comes to camaraderie and sentiment, Sandboxx definitely strikes the emotional chords. This is an app developed by veterans, specifically for the military community, to facilitate relationships, friendships and support. It centers around uploading heartfelt letters and pictures digitally with the app, then having the Sandboxx team convert those digital letters and pictures into physical items that they mail out to people’s loved ones. Included with each mailing is a return envelope for in-the-moment responses. True to their tagline, Sandboxx does an awesome job of simplifying the military lifestyle.

2. Tango

With over 100 million downloads, rated an average 4.2 out of 5 stars by users, my own wife says this mobile application is a lifesaver during deployments. Tango allows people to enjoy free text chat, plus high-quality video and voice calls. Although there are various similar apps available on the market, Tango's big advantage to military families is the access to free international calls with other Tango users. This is a huge budget saver for military families during deployments, since it does not use your phone provider's minutes or text plan. On top of the costs savings, people can use Tango to have some fun by sharing photos, playing games, and browsing music selections.

3. DocuSign

I think we've all experienced the hassle of managing paper documents and acquiring signatures on them from geographically separated people. This inconvenience can become a major issue during deployment. But DocuSign is a digital resource that can help solve this problem. With this app, I’ve been able to endorse an official power of attorney, update my will, co-sign a lease with my wife, grant my younger brother access to my property, and more. It's fairly simple to use, and makes your electronic signature just as official as your wet-ink signature. I mostly use it through my laptop, but there’s a phone app available as well.

4. MyMilitaryLife

Especially valuable for newlyweds whose spouses have zero experience with the military life, this tool is a customizable app designed to help military families navigate life events. Created by the National Military Family Association, MyMilitaryLife can help remove the guesswork for military families getting what they need. One of my favorite features of this app is the push notifications about discounts and programs that are exclusive to military families. My wife really likes the “what spouses are saying” feature, because word of mouth and peer reviews are can provide valuable insight.

5. MyLunchMoney

Taking care of the kids is a responsibility that works best when shared between spouses. Often, the spouse who remains on the homefront can get overwhelmed when dealing with the kids alone. When deployed, the mission and the long can prevent participation in the daily household routines. But, MyLunchMoney, a website and mobile app, creates an opportunity for a deployed parent to help their partner care for the kids, even while away. Parents can use it to pay for school meals and other school-related expenses at any time, from anywhere, using a computer or smartphone. MyLunchMoney is very secure, protected by information security industry standards. Deployed parents can use MyLunchMoney to help their partners feel less stressed, and make co-parenting an uninterrupted activity.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Military Spouses Are Badass »

6. Postagram

Even though technology affords us many conveniences in life today, sometimes we all need something tangible, especially when separated from our loved ones. The Postagram app features the best of both the digital world and the physical world. It makes it possible for users to take pictures with the app, or to use pictures from their social media profiles, and then send printed versions of the pictures to family and friends across the globe. Postagram is very inexpensive, costing just $0.99 to send picture-postcards anywhere in the United States, and only $1.99 for delivery in other countries. And those prices include postage. Thinking back to when I was deployed, receiving letters, cards and pictures in the mail was a huge deal for my mood and confidence. I see Postagram as a big morale booster.

7. Couple

Deployments can put a hamper on relationships, since it minimizes the opportunity for intimacy. It’s sometimes challenging to maintain closeness and affection while separated, especially with lack of privacy due to the threat of digital data breaches and snail-mail thieves. Using Couple makes keeping in touch with that special someone much less daunting. Couple is a private relationship platform. It's free, lots of fun, and designed for you and your partner’s eyes only, hint hint. Connect with each other through video, photos, audio, and even digital stickers. This app also enables couples to set reminders, share to-do lists, share locations, suggest places to go out to on date nights, and do much more. Here's the most romantic feature of Couple: It builds a private timeline to preserve a shared history of all the special moments. And then there's the sexiest feature: send "Secrets," which are photos that disappear after a fixed time. Although Couple is number seven on this list, in my opinion, it’s the first one that military couples should try if they haven't already.

There's no way to actually make a deployment easy. Orders are given, and military families experience separation periods. But, these seven tools have all been touted by military service members and families as effective in improving the overall deployment reality.

(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton

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