You may or may not know that I am a military spouse. My husband is an active duty naval officer and has been in the Navy since before we met. Of course, I knew nothing about military life or what I was getting into when we got married. My grandfather was in the service well before I came along, and I had a couple of uncles who had been in the service, but I wasn’t around it enough to really understand what our life would be like or what it meant to be a military spouse. Even when we were dating when I was still in college, I didn’t really get a sense of what it was like because he was just in schools during that time, I got to talk to him all the time and see him regularly. It was a pretty normal dating situation. I graduated from college and we were married two weeks after that. As we were leaving the church after the wedding ceremony, we walked through an arch of swords held up by some of his navy friends. When we passed the last set of sword bearers, one of them smacked me on my backside with his sword and yelled, “Welcome to the Navy, Mam!” Boy was I utterly clueless as to what that actually meant for me, but I was soon to find out. Following a short honeymoon, which should have been my first clue that we were on military time and not our own, we moved to Georgia where he reported to his first submarine of our marriage. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he is a submariner, which is a whole different ballgame in itself and something that I definitely knew nothing about.
Approximately 3 months after our wedding, he left for his first deployment. Now, it is important to note that this was almost 20 years ago before certain advancements in technology. Back then there was no way to communicate with your spouse on a submarine other than through what was called a family gram. You only got a small number that you could send each deployment (I think it was like 8), and it could literally only be 50 words long. The content was also heavily restricted. If you were to write anything the Navy found questionable, your family gram wouldn’t get sent. Yep, it was read by several people before being sent. Let’s just say that you had to get creative. We were coming up with codes and abbreviated acronyms long before the text lingo (LOL, BRB, etc.) of today came along. It wasn’t until his second sea duty that email was made available on submarines. Just like with the family grams, the content had to be restricted and was read by multiple people before it was sent to your loved one’s inbox. Now, if you know anything about submarines, you know that their mission is to remain undetected at all times. That means that the transmission of emails in very tricky. They can only be uploaded during certain times, and even to this day emails are often lost in space somewhere. Needless to say, communication with a submariner on deployment is spotty at best and completely unreliable. There is no facetime or phone calls. There is nothing but silence for weeks and months as a time.
I know you are wondering why I am telling you all of this. I do have a point, I promise. That first deployment was when I learned of the deployment curse. Any military spouse out there knows exactly what I am talking about. The second your husband leaves is the same second that anything and everything can go wrong. Trust me, it WILL go wrong. It is when everything breaks, and everyone gets sick or injured. The refrigerator will die, your kid will swallow a penny, another kid will get diagnosed with a rare disease, you will come down with the worst flu case of your life, you will get in a car crash, your house will get struck by lightning, you will give birth, and I could go on and on. Yes, every single one of those things and many more happened while my husband was deployed at some point, and there was no way to communicate with him. Many of those are things that would get flagged in a family gram or email and wouldn’t get delivered to your spouse. These are things that NEVER happen when he is home. They always happen when he is gone. Every military spouse I know will tell you that the deployment curse exists. It is real. We have all experienced it more times than we can count. You are left to deal with it all on your own. You can’t talk to your spouse or ask him for advice or comfort. As if it isn’t hard enough that you are left to care for your home, your children, and your life by yourself all while worrying about your spouse, these unexpected challenges just add to your stress. You feel like you are utterly alone with the weight of the world on your shoulders. The days drag on while you wait for the next disaster to strike. It is so hard and led to some of the darkest days I have ever experienced.
I honestly thought after my husband’s final sea duty I would never have to deal with the deployment curse again. I thought that since he would never deploy again and would only be on shore duty from now on, that those days were behind me. I was wrong. He still has to travel much more than I expected. No, it isn’t the same as a deployment because he isn’t gone months at a time with no communication at all, but it is enough to give me that lonely feeling again and, apparently, for the curse to still come. He is currently away for a couple of weeks and is super busy. Our communication has been limited because of his schedule. Wouldn’t you know? The garage door is broken. Someone has been here twice already to attempt to fix it and as of last night, it is broken again. When I pulled in the driveway last night after running carpools for an hour and a half in the middle of a bad storm and the garage wouldn’t open, I suddenly had this flood of emotions. It was like all the feelings of deployment rushing back. I felt the strain of having to take care of everything on my own again. I know that a broken garage door is not really a big deal. It is in fact very small compared to the things I have had to do on my own in the past, but for some reason it triggered an emotion in me. It was almost like an “Oh no, not again” kind of moment that took me back, and I panicked. Thankfully, the emotion only lasted a short time. I was back to being the strong, independent woman I know that I am when I woke up this morning. I got up, called the garage company, and left them a firm message explaining my frustration and let them know that I did not plan to pay a third service fee for someone to come out again. I will handle it just like I have done for the past 20 years, and I will be better prepared the next time he leaves since I now know that the deployment curse can still strike at any time. Just like that first deployment all those years ago, I was naive and wasn’t prepared for it this time around.
Military life can either break you or build you into something stronger than you ever thought possible. I have been blessed with a strong support system that has helped me weather the tough times. That and my faith have carried me through it all. I have proven to myself over and over that I can do hard things, and I will come out stronger on the other side. This time is no different.