While cleaning out my work desk, I came across some advice for post deployments that was written and stuffed behind a drawer and out of sight for years.
Based on the yellow hue of the brittle paper and typed print, it must have been written in the early to late 1970s as general advice for those returning from deployment. The author is unknown, but the words written then are true today and may serve as general advice to help those returning from deployment. It has been edited for style and length.
Life during deployment, whether on board a ship, aircraft or at a forward operating base, is a demanding environment. Great sacrifices of personal comfort and convenience are made in the name of operational necessity.
This makes you feel that the world is a better place as a result of your actions out there, so there is an expectation of a well-deserved hearty welcome home after a job well done, thus the “hail the conquering hero” notion. But, we need to remember that for the last six months, all we had to do was take care of ourselves while loved ones back at the home front took care of the bills, the kids, the errands, the home, etc.
In many cases a spouse or significant other has developed a sense of accomplishment in achieving some sort of independence. This is not to infer that they prefer to act in this mode. They just usually are not prepared to stop handling the affairs of the home cold turkey. Life is an ongoing process. It does not stop and start at the whim of the deployment cycle.
If not prepared for the reunion in realistic terms, statistics show that a serious argument will ensue within three hours of the homecoming. Hardly a fitting way to rekindle the special relationship, but with proper preparation, the transition back to family life can be smooth, healthy, and very enjoyable. All that it takes is patience and understanding.
Be sure to realize that it has been a lot of work for our families at home without us. Be open minded. Praise a job well done. We want the approval of our families when we come home after a long deployment, and so do they. Be sensitive to their feelings if things aren’t just the way we want them when we get home, they tried their best. Think a moment. Did everything on the deployment turn out the way we wanted it to?
In dealing with children, don’t forget that you are a parent. It may be difficult to maintain discipline with a child after you’ve been gone for a while. The last thing you want to do is scold a loved one you haven’t been with in a long time. Children know this.
They may try to see how much they can get away with. Find out if there have been any “rule changes” since you have been gone.
Don’t let the child play one parent against the other. Enjoy the reunion with your children but if they need discipline, do it. At the same time, be ready for the comment, “We didn’t have any problems when you were gone, why don’t you go back to (Fill in location)?”
They don’t mean it. Be patient, and all will be back to normal very quickly.
Do not expect drastic changes of the status quo in the course of a few minutes. Chances are the family is very willing to let you take over once more, but allow for a turnover period. Being in the military, most of us are used to being in control of the situation. It goes against the grain to assume a more passive role in anything, let alone in dealing with our loved ones.
Allow yourself to be “briefed” on what has transpired during the deployment. When you have all the facts, start assuming more until once again things become a new normal for your particular situation. Again, a little patience and understanding goes a long way to making the homecoming an enjoyable experience.
WHAT TO SHARE
We may have experienced many exciting things during the deployment. Monitor the amount of discussion time spent on this with your family or friends.
For instance, if the deployment has been hard on your family, it might not be prudent to keep talking about all the beautiful places you have seen.
But if there is a sincere interest on the part of the family to hear all about the various sights, by all means reminisce with them. Perhaps it is their way to get caught up with what you have been doing for the last six months.
But realize it works both ways. Make sure you take just as much interest in what your family has done for the last six months as well. Homecoming is a warm rekindling of the special relationships we all have with our loved ones. It is a special time and one that should be shared and cherished. The key point is “shared.” Homecoming is for the whole family, not just the "conquering hero." Be patient, sensitive, and caring and above all, enjoy it because you have earned it.