So Your Child is Being Deployed…. Some Soldier’s Mom

May 29, 2008 · Filed Under This & That 

SO YOUR CHILD IS BEING DEPLOYED…

When my son was getting ready for deployment to Iraq, so was I (getting ready for his deployment, I mean.) I scoured the web for information on what we (his parents) should do in advance of his deployment to no avail. So as his unit was redeploying (returning), I posted a blog entry about what others should know before their children went off… which I’ve updated with other useful information provided by spouses and other parents. (I use the word “soldier” ‘cause it’s just easier than Soldier/Marine/Airman/Sailor/Coast Guardsman.)

Take nothing for granted. So you think your child knows you love them? Tell them anyway and every chance you get. They’ll get miffed and frustrated at times telling you, “I know [Ma] [Dad]!” Ignore them. Tell them anyway. No one has ever said, “I said I loved him/her too often.”

Get paperwork. Get multiple copies of their power of attorney (a POA). Make sure it covers the types of transactions you’ve agreed to be responsible for – banking, insurance, property transactions. Get separate POAs that cover different situations if you need. Make sure you either have or know where all the rest of his/her papers are (car title? lease? Will?)

Get a copy of their deployment orders as some vendors require these to discontinue service without a penalty (cell phone companies, for example) or to cancel a lease. Be sure to remove ALL of the social security numbers from the copy you send to anyone (I put a piece of paper over that column when I copied the orders.)

Deployment is one big roller coaster ride. Hang on – it’s going to be one hell of a ride! They’re leaving. They’re delayed. They’re leaving. They call. They don’t call. They’re in Kuwait. They’re leaving for the AO (area of operations). They arrived. They email. Then they don’t. They get internet. The internet connection is down. The phones are down. Everything’s down. They’re going on a week’s mission. They’re back. They’re getting R&R. It’s not for 6 more months. UpDownUpDownUpDown. It’s a long year.

If you don’t already have one, get a passport. We will all pray you will never need it except for vacations, but it can save you a day or two in travel time while someone tries to arrange this for you if you need it later. Be aware, that very few families have to travel outside the U.S. even when their child is wounded. It is only the rarest of circumstances in which you might need to travel.

Communication is key to their mental survival. Send mail. Get their friends to send mail. Aunts, Uncles, cousins. Send postcards. Send cards. Send pictures. Send newspapers. Send their high school or college newspaper. Email. They might not respond as frequently as you write (or as often as you’d like) – but don’t let that stop you (after all, they are fighting a war). Your letters and cards take a first class stamp. If you want to make it easier for them to write, include pre-addressed post cards and envelopes to make it easier for them to write you – those do not need stamps as they mail letters and cards for free. And remember, if there are breaks in communications (no email or instant messages) repeat after me:

No.News.Is.Good.News.’Cause.Bad.News.Travels.Fast.

And since you’re reading this, you have a computer, but if you don’t have it yet – get one or more instant messenger programs (download them free from AOL AIM, MSN, Yahoo…) and learn to use it! Your soldier will have access to computers and most have a number of instant messenger programs. It’s the way you and your soldier will most often communicate more than any other. You can program sounds to signal whenever he (or his buddies) is online. Even if you don’t want to jump up and have a conversation in the middle of the night (you say that now…), you will be able to determine that they were online while you were asleep or out and it will give you some peace of mind (really). And you can forward it to your cell phone or other wireless device (like a Blackberry). You never have to be out of touch with your soldier.

Absolutely invest in a WEBCAM for you and your soldier (they really aren’t that expensive). My friends all say it is absolutely priceless to see your soldier’s smiling face — LIVE! One spouse blogger told me that “a mini-tape recorder with the microcassettes are small & easy to pack as well as durable” because there is nothing like a soldier hearing voices from home and for those at home to hear their soldier’s voice… Also make family movies ?? especially if your soldier has children ?? they are fun not only for your soldier but all his friends will get a smile from them, too.

Send STUFF. Send packages. Send their favorite food. Send books, comic books, magazines, DVDs, music, games, and their favorite things. Ask what they need, but even when they say they don’t need anything, send something. Send happy stuff — you know whatever makes them laugh or feel good. We recorded our son’s favorite television shows (with commercials — they loved the commercials!) and those DVDs got passed around to everyone — it was a part of home.

Be sure to learn the mailing rules – no porn, no pork, no alcohol. Don’t worry about sending too much – unfortunately, they have brother soldiers who rarely get any mail and your soldier will share. Go to your Post Office and ask for FLAT RATE BOXES (the discounted ones for sending to military addresses!) and CUSTOMS FORMS. Get to know your postal clerks — they are on their fourth or fifth deployment and they are a wealth of information!

Pick out some family photos that will make your soldier happy. Cut them down to wallet size and laminate them. A piece of home… and why he/she serves.

NOTE: If you order things to be sent to your soldier, DO NOT HAVE THEM SENT DIRECTLY TO THE SOLDIER. You will have no way of knowing whether they were ever sent or received (happened a few times). After the first few months, we learned to have things (gloves, goggles, clothing) shipped to us and then we re-packaged it in flat rate boxes to him. And it’s my understanding that you CAN get tracking receipts to most of the postal facilities in the “093″ zip codes.

Support their efforts. No matter what you read elsewhere or what your feelings about the war are, support their efforts. It isn’t about you. They need to hear that you appreciate their sacrifice and efforts. If you can’t say something nice, say nothing. BE PROUD of your son/daughter. Be VERY proud ‘cause damn they’re good!

If they’re not telling, Don’t ask. There are some things your soldier can’t talk about. There are things your soldier doesn’t want to talk about. Don’t push it. When they want to talk, they will. If he’s in the listening mood, you talk. If he’s in the talking mood, listen. Try not to add to their stress. Don’t argue with them. Let them blow off steam – they aren’t angry at you most of the time. If a conversation seems to upset them – get off the subject, change it or agree with them. They have plenty else on their minds and they shouldn’t have to worry about you. You can smack them up side the head for being disrespectful when they get home.

Educate yourself. Don’t believe everything the mainstream media tells you. In addition to reading the news sites and military blogs, look for specific information from the Army (or Marines or Navy). Most units have an official website while soldiers are deployed with mailing addresses, contact information for the Rear Detachment, the Family Readiness Group (FRG), etc. The sites also usually include newsletters from the unit commanders in the field and the Brigade and Battalion through the course of the deployment. The letters won’t give you detailed information on operations, but they make you feel connected to your soldier and they will tell you generally about their camp or Forward Operating Base (FOB) and what they are doing — promotions, births, etc. And they usually have some pictures! It will do you a world of good. Really.

Join support groups. Get on the Family Readiness Group (FRG) email list. If you are local to your soldier’s duty station, involve yourself with the FRG. Look at sites like www.support3rdid.com, www.SpouseBuzz.com, www.military.com, and Band of Mothers etc.

There also may be private support group websites started and maintained by family members during the deployment. Find them – they are a wealth of information and rumor/myth busting and a hand to hold and shoulder to cry on when you’re down.

Keep yourself busy with other things. That will be hard as keeping track of your soldier and trying to communicate with him/her will consume a lot of your non-working (and in some cases working) time. You will think about them night and day. All perfectly normal, but they want you to have a life. As my son Noah said, “That’s why we’re here – so you can live normally there.” So do it.

You also might want to do a scrapbook. When the 3rd ID deployed, the Society for the 3rd ID had commemorative “Back to Iraq” t-shirts that they sold… and bumper stickers, pins, etc. so I ordered some of those and put them away for my son. I also printed and saved news articles, blog entries, instant messages, emails from his friends, the battalion and unit newsletters and put them all in 3-ring binders (there were Volumes I, II and III). They may not appreciate it now, but they will (a) when they have children, and/or (b) they write their memoirs (wink). They will have tangible reminders that they made history…

HERE’S A FEW REQUESTS FOR CO’s AND NCO’s :

Try to insist that your soldiers give someone’s name to the FRG so that they have someone getting the emails.

If you’re putting out newsletters, please put it out regularly (not just occasionally). Yes, we know you’re running a war over there – but these newsletters are a precious link to our soldier and we count on that information. We LIVE for any information about their situation we can get our hands on (and it goes a long way to stopping the rumor mill back home.)

Please show parents the same respect and involvement that you show to spouses. Be sure your FRG includes parents and girlfriends and be sure your soldiers (especially unmarried soldiers) know parents can be included!

HERE’S SOME ADVICE FOR SOLDIERS:

Call, write or email as often as you can — at least once in a while. Yes, dang it, we know you’re busy and yes, dang it, we know you’re tired. But we are sitting back here worrying night and day. And no — telling us a thousand times, “Don’t worry” will not make us not worry. Believe it or not, not only do we worry about you, but we are actually interested in how you are and what you’re doing, what you need… We’re not asking for an hour by hour accounting, but we would like to know a little of what you’re experiencing and how you are. At the very least, a simple, “Hi all! We’re doing fine. We’re safe and thinking of you. Going to get some sleep now. Love you all… [insert name] — will do.


Get used to the fact that we (your parents) will cry.
We will cry when you leave. Cry when you come home on R&R. Cry when you leave after R&R. And we’ll cry when you get home. Get used to it. It just is. It’s liquid love and it runs from our hearts to our eyes.

This list of suggestions are from my personal experience… but there are many pre-deployment checklists available for free on the web. Here’s the American Bar Association checklist and Operation Homefront’s. For others, just search “pre-deployment checklist”.

Copyright Some Soldier’s Mom 2005 & 2008. All rights reserved

Comments

25 Responses to “So Your Child is Being Deployed…. Some Soldier’s Mom”

  1. Amanda on May 29th, 2008 10:11 pm

    Lots of good info.

    In addition, I would suggest respecting a soldier who doesn’t want you participating in the FRG. ‘It’s not all about you’ is a good thing to remember. You can find support elsewhere.

    “Support their efforts. No matter what you read elsewhere or what your feelings about the war are, support their efforts. It isn’t about you. They need to hear that you appreciate their sacrifice and efforts. If you can’t say something nice, say nothing. BE PROUD of your son/daughter. Be VERY proud ‘cause damn they’re good!”
    That would be a great header. Every mother I’ve come into contact with needed to learn that lesson.

  2. Some Soldier's Mom on May 30th, 2008 12:03 am

    Amanda, I agree… I only ask that “command” make sure that unmarried soldiers know that they can have parents &/or girlfriends involved in the FRG (if the soldier so elects). In most cases, the unit’s communications are aimed at spouses (for example, my son’s unit site OIF3 was addressed to “All [unit] spouses” and then had a note at the bottom that said, “and parents might find the site useful, too” — even though more than 60% of enlisted soldiers are single!

  3. Jan R on May 30th, 2008 1:28 am

    I meant to post this here, do not know how to remove it from the place that I did post it….

    This is fantastic! My son is currently on his 2nd deployment to Iraq, this one 15 mos, he will be leaving the Army when he returns home. His contract with the Army was over 10/30/07, but he was extended. I only recently found a support website support3rdid.com and got here from there.

    It has been very difficult both times due to the feeling of isolation and lack of information, the support I have had for just the last month has been very comforting. The FRG for his unit is not very active for out of town people, the 1st deployment I didn’t hear anything from them until the month before the unit returned. 2nd time he is married and I can only assume his wife gets the information, she is out of state with her family.

    I have learned a couple of things this deployment, I send packages every 2 weeks, I always include stuff to share and tell him if he doesn’t want/need something, share share share.

    Both times I sent old fashioned letters and cards as well as email and instant messages, 2nd time I have sent many more old fashioned letters and cards because he came home with ALL of them the 1st time and it dawned on me how important they were to him :) .

    I found a phone # for the US Post Office on another 3rd ID website, you call and ask for the Soldiers Package of Flat Rate boxes, they send them to your doorstep, they give you an ID # and everytime you want more you call and they arrive they also have the special print FPO/APO “Support Our Troops” flat rate boxes. They send you customs labels, plastic envelope for the customs labels, the priority mailing labels and a roll of priority tape. You HAVE to wait in line at the post office to mail packages to your deployed soldier, but you have everything ready to go. USPS Soldier Care Line 800-610-8734.

    INSURE ALL PACKAGES, it is CHEAP and you won’t loose your money should the package be lost or damaged, even snacks can end up being 20.00 and 20.00 is 20.00. 50.00 insurance is 1.60.

    Send them pictures, 2nd deployment my son is married, I send a different picture of he and his wife everytime. I also sent a small album like you get when you pick up your pictures, he came home on R&R with it full of the pics I had sent.

    Have also sent him pictures of Mom & Dad, our family pets, places and things….

    Send FUN STUFF!!! I just happened to get a whole box of beads at a Jaguars NFL football game, just them cheap give away if you bought something. I didn’t want the something, but I asked for a pair to send my son, they said “NO” then I told them he is in Iraq. They gave me an entire box of beads, so I packed them ALL up and sent them…..I got an email the morning after he received them, he went around the entire Combat Outpost at 1 AM when he woke for duty putting beads on all the guys necks, he said they were all grinnin ear to ear, I see his ear to ear grin in the email he sent telling about it. After that I sent fun stuff at least once a month. Sending things to commemorate the holidays they are missing lifted their spirits as well. corny stuff for St Patricks Day, Cards with sound were also a BIG hit! Just think outside of the box.

    I commend you all for creating this Parental Support Website!!!!

  4. Moultrie Creek on May 30th, 2008 9:01 am

    Great blog and long past due!

    One very useful service is Grand Central (http://www.grandcentral.com/). You register your account and set it up with all your phone numbers – home, work, mobile, etc. They give you one phone number which you pass on to others – especially your deployed Soldier. Now, when that number is called, it will ring at all your registered phones making it easy for your Soldier to reach you. You can even add/remove phones in your profile when you’re visiting others.

    It’s a very useful tool to insure you don’t miss that important call!

  5. Lee on May 30th, 2008 3:58 pm

    Speaking as a former soldier, I don’t know how to say how much it meant to me that my friends and family would send me care packages while I was deployed.

    I don’t know how to describe the feeling that you get when you are out there thinking that you are doing something great and noble, sacrificing your time and possibly your life, when you hear nothing from home other than what you are doing is wrong, imoral or illegal. And people wonder why there have been the those reports of rising suicide rates in the military. It is because there has been no real support from media outlets.

    I agree, with what other people have said. It doesn’t matter what your personal feelings about the war may be, if you have a son or daughter in the military,then honor THEIR decision. Support them. It means so much, trust me.

  6. Marilyn on May 31st, 2008 3:51 am

    Thank you so much. My son just returned to his base and will be coming home for leave next week. I wish I would have had some of this information when he was first deployed, but I know where it is now. I’ve gotten lots of support from support3rdid, and while I always felt welcome as a parent, it’s nice to have a parents’ place.

  7. JP on May 31st, 2008 1:43 pm

    Fantastic website.

  8. Hope on June 1st, 2008 1:22 pm

    Speaking of holidays…Does anyone have any suggestions for what to send to celebrate 4th of July? Obviously, hot dogs and hamburgers are out…I suppose chips and dips would be good and beverage mixes. Of course American flags…but any other ideas will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks

  9. Some Soldier's Mom on June 1st, 2008 6:13 pm

    Hope: I sent pizza! I got that Boboli pre-made pizza dough; pouches of tomato sauce; HARD PACK cheese (the kind that doesn’t have to be refrigerated!) and a small cheese grater… packaged peperoni (vacuum sealed that does not need refrigeration!) Also a microwave pizza dish…

    or

    “A Day at the Beach!”- sunscreen; beach towel; beach snacks; flip flop sandals (shower shoes); aloe vera gel;

    or

    “American Classics”- Pez with dispensers; Cracker Jacks; Lifesavers; NeccoWafers; Pop Rocks; Nerds; Good & Plenty; Candy Necklaces; Candy cigarettes

    throw in some “windmills” (the hand held spinners) and red/white/blue tinsel!!

  10. Hope on June 2nd, 2008 3:17 am

    Thanks! Great Ideas! I don’t know about the beach stuff as my son is at a COP where (as far as I know) they can’t go out side without full “battle rattle” on. But the rest… GREAT! Thanks so much! :)

    Hope

  11. Alison on June 2nd, 2008 2:33 pm

    Make sure your soldier signs up (or you sign them up) with a group like soldiers’ angels – soldiersangels.org – it is great for their morale to receive cards/letters/packages from someone unrelated who supports them in what they are doing!

  12. Airborne Dad on June 5th, 2008 6:49 pm

    On the second deployment, we invested in a DVD camera. It wasn’t cheap, but it turned out to be well worth the investment. Every week, I would make make an unedited video of things going on around the house – mostly the dogs acting silly. They are easy to use: point, shoot and when you are done just push a button and it’s ready to go.

    Jan N – there is a family support group here in Jax. Drop by http://www.theonepercenters.blogspot.com if you are interested.

  13. Some Soldier's Aunt on June 5th, 2008 7:09 pm

    To Hope: This may be hard to put together on short notice, but I’m a big Disney fan and visit their theme parks often—they have a “Goofy” burger–it’s gummy candy (which won’t melt!) shaped like a hamburger…..on a “bun,” with “cheese” “lettuce” and “tomato”! I don’t know if the local Disney stores (in the malls) carry these treats any more, but I think they still do at Disney World and Disneyland….I’m betting if you called WDW someone could put you in touch with one of their stores and then you could send “burgers” to the guys!!! You can always buy from Disney over the phone, you just have to know what to ask for—-

  14. NavyHeloMom on June 10th, 2008 12:07 am

    You might consider adding this to the list…our son made sure he and his wife got passports for the kids as well before he left on his IA to Afghanistan. They also had a paper drawn up and notarized that gave his wife permission to fly with the kids anywhere inside and outside the US. With ever changing security rules and airline rules they didn’t want to take the chance that she would not be able to take the kids where ever they need to travel to. The youngest was 6 wks old for his passport photo but he has already racked up some air miles.

  15. Connie on June 10th, 2008 3:12 pm

    Thank you so much for the information. My son (Navy) just left, for REMOVED FOR OPSEC for 1 year.

  16. Janie on July 3rd, 2008 1:55 pm

    As a parent I find volunteering for other troops as they come thu our town a great help. Helping them makes me feel like I’m loving my kid that much more. Being a parent is difficult; it’s hard to know where & how to fit in during deployment.

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  20. AlexM on August 13th, 2008 7:03 pm

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

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  22. Dana on January 16th, 2009 11:01 pm

    Son is deploying next week to Iraq. I am wondering how they pay for things they need there like at the PX and other places? Do they have to pay with credit cards? Will he need to take his checkbook? Are there ATM’s on the bases? I just don’t have a clue…

    Too many things to worry about. He will probably have or I can send most of what he needs I guess, but what if??

  23. LAW on January 17th, 2009 4:31 am

    Dana – they have to use Eagle cards(they get those at the PX – like a debit card for the PX), or a debit card. I’d not take the chequebook, a debit card is easier and accepted everywhere. there are ATMs on some bases, but cash can be hard to come by, and the Army/Navy/Marines/AirForce discourage large amounts of cash or frequent withdrawals, due to difficulties transporting it in. Its funny, I just had this discussion with my DH, who is in the air at the present time on his way for his second deployment. If he gets a debit card, make sure he gets one that won’t charge an exorbitant fee for using an ATM that’s not one of that bank’s machines. USAA allows a certain number of withdrawals without fee, WellsFargo used to have a Military account – check his bank or Credit Union (if it’s a military linked one, they may have one of those accounts too)

    Mail takes, to most places in country, about 10 days to 2 weeks. Many catalogue companies will ship to APOs, but he needs to make sure of that before placing orders.

    Hope this helped.

    LAW

  24. carmen lopez on November 20th, 2009 12:16 am

    Oh my gosh, thank you for this info. My son is deploying in Feb 2010 to Iraq. I was not sure what to do or what to say to him. I am afraid for him, but he doesn’t know that because all I’ve been telling him is he will be home soon, he is awesome for doing this, he is awesome just for being him, and I remind him over and over again how much I love him. Even though my heart aches about him leaving. I don’t like the decision he made, but I really do believe in giving my kids the freedom to choose. Isn’t that why they serve their country? For freedom. I place my son in God’s hands and pray that I can see him again.I pray that my son have strength to endure what’s in Iraq. Thank you for this info.

  25. Pamela... on December 18th, 2009 2:02 pm

    I just finished reading every last post! Very inspiring! I found this site quite by accident, while searching in vain for a book. Maybe someone here, could point me in the right direction or make some suggestions please! I am looking for a book for Mom’s (not wife’s, there are many of these), coping with they’re son’s deployment to Iraq!
    Up until my son’s deployment, I had an excellent relationship with my daughter-in-law. Now she is so consumed with anger, depression and self-pity over his decision to joined the Army at the age of 31, we hardly ever speak. I’ve tried to be very supportive, including sending her books for coping. I tell her she is his first priority when he is able to call and that’s okay, just call me and keep me informed. Needless to say, she does not, which has caused hard feelings. Okay, sorry for rambling! I want a book similar to the ones written for Wife’s of deployed soldiers, but specific to MOM’s. Am I, asking for, to much?

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