Military life involves many hellos and goodbyes, with deployment being the most intense example. You and your spouse can spend anywhere from a few months to a year apart, all the while dreaming of the beauty of homecoming.
At first, things are perfect, then you remember/notice things that you had practically forgotten about. Little hiccups start to occur as you transition and this period requires some tact, patience, communication, and love.
We asked AW101 readers to share reintegration advice. Here is what they wanted us to know.
Prep the House
Debi — Give him clean sheets, fluffy towels for the one hour shower, clean toothbrush. Comfy clothes that don’t say Army. Food you don’t find in the chow hall, and NO bottled water. Let them have quiet time.
Casandra — Have all the errands and shopping already done. It will save your sanity. Trust me. They will stare at you blankly if you ask them in a store what they want. It will infuriate you.
Lindsey — Be prepared to cook every meal they missed for the year! Hubby has already sent me some requests!!!
Keep it Small
Mallory — The first few days they are home, just immediate family. The first time he was deployed we scheduled a huge party, and he told me he was so overwhelmed with seeing EVERYONE when all he wanted was a quiet time alone with me.
Carly — When my husband came home my family totally understood that he needed time to just be alone with me! So blessed to have an understanding family!
Shadia — No family gatherings immediately after. Don’t expect much. Don’t push yourself onto them. Let time take its course. Don’t ask questions. Don’t expect them to immediately jump into “life”. Just be available and love unconditionally.
Charlotte — Just you, him, and the kids to welcome him home for the first week. Sure everyone missed him but he doesn’t live with everyone. Deployment makes huge changes in the family structure and how it works and time is needed to get back to normal. If I could do it all over again I would have told family members to not be in such a rush that we would come see them when it was time.
Brittani — Take a few days just the two of you. Trial and error unfortunately until you find your go to way. It took us only the first one to figure it out what works for us. Second one we found our ritual.
Lori — Breathe, because every annoying habit you didn’t realize annoys you will.
Aimee — Having respect for all involved is key. We’ve all been through a huge process and it warrants patience and love.
Lovina — Patience is truly a virtue during this time. You both have changed considerably during this time. If you ask questions and he/she doesn’t answer right away, don’t take it personal. Depending on where they were, what they experienced…..they just might not be ready to open up, know how to answer, or in some instances may not be allowed to answer.
Rebecca — Let them hang out and do whatever they want for a few days and lots of lovin! Cuddle them at night and let them know how much they were missed. Don’t overwhelm them and let them make some family plans.
Kara — Take it SLOW. Kids will be excited to see Daddy, but Daddy hasn’t had to parent for however long he was gone, so when he goofs up DO NOT get frustrated with him. Give him time to readjust to the idea of being a husband and father again.
Sunny — Step back let them be a parent. They might do things differently than you have been and it might be hard to let go after doing everything for so long. The bonding is important, and they can still be a patent.
Brittany — Communicate! Everyone has been fighting their own battles and things have changed in one way or another… talk it out when things aren’t going how you thought they would.
Kristi — Communication — about everything. Don’t assume anything and start new routines that include your soldier.
Tam — Communication! It is such a huge part, but can be very hard.
Tahina — Participate in the focus group if there is one on your base. They helped us learn to communicate and understand how it is for them, as the service member.
Give it Time
Robin — Let it flow. It’s been 5 months, we’re still adjusting. By the time we get our groove back, he’ll be gone again. I have to think like a single parent. It sucks, but it’s necessary. He’s not always mentally or emotionally present.
Mary — Go with the flow… reintegration is sometimes harder than the deployment… getting reintegrated takes time.
Corey — Don’t be a helicopter! Let your soldier have his space and adjust to you on his own!! Everyone needs time to adjust! Don’t rush anything!
Robin — After being gone a while, he’s not used to being questioned. NCO’s run the show, and when they come home, he expects his orders to be followed. Constant, gentle reminders that I’m allowed to ask questions and that I’m not one of his soldiers, was an almost daily conversation for a long time. Patience and time is all that is required.
Diane — Be prepared to drive everywhere for a while.
Kathy — The first month is a “honeymoon” phase, then real life takes over. There is a lot of good info from the base Family Services for reintegration. Our command had pre and post deployment briefs which were great.
Catherine — Step back, don’t complain, don’t nag, let them do what they want when they want. Things will begin to fall back in place. Coming home is harder than deployment. The first year after deployment was hard for us. You have to remind yourself why you love them.
Lindsay — My overall advice for basically anything Army, don’t set expectations. Let it flow. Be present. And add a whole lot of love.
Kat — Embrace any awkward moments, it happens, and you will fall back into your normal quicker than you think.
Hallie — Don’t expect fantasy. Real life is less exciting but just as great. Give the dream time to come alive for you both.
We thank our readers for their time, experience and insight. Here’s hoping for many smooth transitions!
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