Diary of a Deployment 1: How He Broke the News

My name is Jackie and I am an Army wife. My husband has served for five years and has been fortunate enough (in my eyes, not so much his), to be assigned to non-deploying units. Everything changed the day he informed me that he had to deploy. I invite you to join us as I chronicle our journey.

THE Talk

I don’t think there is ever a good time for the deployment talk, but ours arrived during a “kick me while I was down” scenario.

My husband and I were in New York City celebrating our eighth wedding anniversary, when I learned that a close friend unexpectedly passed. I was so grief-stricken that the remainder of that week was a blur. I tried to push through the final day of our anniversary trip together, attempted to be a good hostess to my in-laws who were here babysitting, and somehow managed to write an article while on a deadline. All of these efforts were coupled with immense grief, lack of sleep, little appetite, and planning a last-minute flight back home for the funeral. I also managed to write my friend’s obituary and draft a speech for his funeral, which amazes me to this day.

All the while, I noticed my husband acting oddly distant and I could tell something was troubling him. When I asked why, “I’ll tell you later,” was his response. I shrugged things off as much as I could, as my hands were already full. Then he finally decided to break the news.

I just finished packing for the funeral while my mother-in-law watched my children. I decided that I would treat myself to a midday coffee at Starbucks, when my husband walked in the door early from work. “Ooh!” I declared, “Join me on a spontaneous daytime date! We already have a babysitter!” His face didn’t return my excitement, and instead he asked me to sit down. While we sat on our bed he said, “There is really no good time to tell you this, so I’m just going to say it.” I quietly and attentively listened, still sniffling from crying over my friend just moments before. I took a deep breath and he said the words. “I’m deploying to Afghanistan.” In an incredibly dramatic maneuver (but genuinely honest to my already-present feelings of grief and exhaustion), I yelled, “What the f$*k?!” and threw my head into his lap, sobbing.

We sat there this way for a few minutes, until I managed to collect myself. I sat up and said, “It’s the military. I’ll believe it when I see it.” Unfortunately he told me that this was, in fact, happening, but wouldn’t be for another six months. Ever the optimist, I focused on the positives. “You’ll be here for all the birthdays this year and the holidays! That’s great!” This brought me little comfort though, because deep down, I feared for his life. I feared for our relationship. I feared for our children. Lastly, I feared for myself. I would have to be super mom without my partner for half a year. As a defense mechanism, I laughed, “Well, I can write about this for Army Wife 101, so that’s good. Lots of material, right?”

My husband and I made our way downstairs where he broke the news to his parents. A former Colonel and Army wife, they maintained their composure far better than I had. I could see sadness in his mom’s eyes, and his father immediately engaged him in military talk.

As I heard their voices, everything began to blur as I stood there in my living room. After all the news I received that week, I couldn’t even begin to feign happiness or positivity — it was a lost cause in that moment. I knew that my husband’s deployment was going to sit with me for a while, and I had an entire six months to process it. I couldn’t tell if that was going to be a blessing or a curse.
Stay tuned for upcoming installments of the Diary of a Deployment Series.

A self-described “Jackie of All Trades,” Army wife Jackie Toops is a mother of two and enjoys writing, travel, art, languages, slow cooking and peaceful parenting. She studied Interdisciplinary Humanities, Museum Studies and Nonprofit Management, and has overseen public relations for museums, galleries and universities. She is a contributing author for Wall Street International Magazine and has discussed her articles on-air with AFN Wiesbaden. She’s usually seen adventuring with her Canon, a coffee and two small children. Follow her on Twitter.

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