My husband’s squadron does not go on “typical” deployments, therefore we do not experience the “typical” farewell or welcome home fan fare. It’s usually quiet with only a few families whose spouses are going on the detachment and we usually all say our goodbyes at home. However, I needed his truck while he was gone, so the kids and I drove him to the squadron to drop him off. I thought we would say our goodbye’s quickly and then head home, however, the kids wanted to watch his plane take off.
Since we had about an hour to wait until take off, we drove over to Burger King on base and then headed back to end of the runway, giving them perfect front row seats to watch the plane take off. As we sat there in the dark, on a beautiful crisp fall night, I could tell this goodbye was tougher than the last one. He does not go away for long periods of time compared to many of my military friends, however for them this “detachment” to Afghanistan was long . My husband also missed this “season” last year when he was in Afghanistan, so in their minds, missing another sports season is a big deal.
As we saw the plane taking off I showed them if we blinked our lights, they would be able to see us from the air. The kids insisted on watching his plane until its’ blinking lights completely disappeared into the night sky. I turned around to see my 7 year old son fighting back tears, with one big crocodile tear falling down his cheek and I could tell my 10 year old was doing everything she could not to cry. I told them both it was ok to cry – it just means they really, really love Daddy.
It was completely silent in the car as we drove off base and I was trying to think of something that would break the ice. Every year we visit a nearby farm to pick out our pumpkins, enjoy the fall fest and ride on a silly cow train. Last year, Katie thought the name of her cow “Bubba” was pronounced “Booba”, which the three of us thought was hysterical. So I mentioned that we should go to our favorite farm soon and visit “Booba” and we all started laughing.
That night as I was tucking my little guy in, he asked to see the picture he has on his night stand of my husband and I at Disney. I handed him the picture and he kissed it good night and then put it under his pillow. The next morning when I went downstairs, he was already watching some Saturday morning cartoons and I noticed the picture was on the end table next to him. He had never done that before and that’s when I had to hold back the tears. Every night, he gives the picture a good night kiss and puts daddy under his pillow and every morning, , he takes the picture with him downstairs. He told me,” he doesn’t want Daddy to miss anything while he’s gone.”
That picture was taken back in 1996, before we were married and well before we had children. Ed and I have been through so many “typical” deployments, detachments, and trips with the Navy over the past 17 years, yet, I had no idea how truly hard it is on kids when their parent is away, until I watched my own say goodbye.
Military kids are amazing. Most people wouldn’t even know when military kids have a deployed parent – unless, of course, they saw them kissing a picture of mommy or daddy goodnight and tucking them under the pillow.
The “Everyone Serves” e-book is extremely helpful with helping you and your kids through the stages of deployment. You can find all of the information on downloading it for free here.
Jen is a Military Spouse, Mom and the Founder MilitaryOneClick.com
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