While interviewing a Fort Hood commander, he gave me one thing he would like me to do, not as a journalist, but as a military spouse preparing for my husband’s deployment — reach out to at least one spouse.
I knew exactly what he meant.
During a deployment there are two paths a spouse can take on the homefront. They can either get involved, or they can shut down. The later can make for a miserable experience, which is why the Army created family readiness groups. These groups keep spouses informed, while also providing support and even some socialization.
Over the past two and a half years, I’ve heard so many opinions on FRGs. Some spouses love them, some refuse to participate and some see them as a drama-filled episode of reality TV.
I know these groups aren’t perfect, and I know not all are created equally, but I have found the FRG experience to be incredibly beneficial. Maybe I am just lucky.
During my husband’s previous deployment, meeting with these women was a place of solace for me. Even though we didn’t talk about our husbands being in Iraq, I took comfort in knowing they were dealing with the same emotions I was. They knew what it was like spending your days attached to your cell phone, and the moment you step away to the bathroom, the shower, to take out the trash, you miss the call you’ve been waiting for. We don’t have to talk about it. We know.
What’s different is during my husband’s last deployment I was a brand new Army wife. I didn’t know what to expect, but being surrounded by so many women with experience made the stretches of cell phone silence bearable.
Had I not put myself out there and made the effort to connect with other military wives or go to FRG meetings and events to stay informed, I’m pretty sure the whole experience would have been miserable. I could have easily slipped into isolation and loneliness.
I understand why this commander would ask for me to reach out. I’m sure he’s seen it from the other side. When a soldier’s spouse is unhappy, I can only imagine how distracting that is for the soldier downrange.
Now that I am one of the spouses with a bit of experience and I’m volunteering to help in my FRG, I will try to keep my promise.
And if you are reading this and you have an FRG meeting this week, try to go. If it’s just not working, there are lots of other resources for spouses out there online. Being separated by deployment is truly what you make of it. So, if for no other reason than for your soldier, take the first step.