Dear Governor Palin, Army Mom
SO YOUR CHILD IS BEING DEPLOYED...
Well, here’s what we learned and pass on to those of you with recently deployed or about-to-be deployed soldiers (marines, sailors, airmen):
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, “Gosh I think I told him/her how much I loved them too often.”
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 love 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 and CUSTOMS FORMS. Get to know your postal clerks -- they are on their third or fourth deployments and they are a wealth of information!
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 these milblogs, 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 FRG (Family Readiness Group), 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 FRG email list. If you are local to your soldier’s duty station, involve yourself with the FRG. [Look at sites like www.parentszone.org, www.SpouseBuzz.com, www.military.com, etc.] There are also 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 your soldier 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 Noah said, “That’s why we’re here – so you can live normally there.” So do it.
Stacy also reminds us to do a scrapbook... The Society for the 3rd ID had commemorative "Back to Iraq 2005" t-shirts that they sold... and bumper stickers, pins, etc. so I ordered some of those and put them away for him. I have also printed and saved news articles, my blog entries, the battalion and unit newsletters and put them all in 3-ring binders (there are 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.
Put out a newsletter (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 single soldiers know they can be included!
HERE’S SOME ADVICE FOR SOLDIERS:
Call, write or email often -- but at least every once in a while. Yes, dammmit, we know you’re busy and Yes, dammmmit, we know you’re tired. But we are sitting back here worrying night and day. No, you 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 a body count, but we would like to know what you’re experiencing. 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 here} 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...
Be sure to check out the comments to the original post - there are a lot of experienced voices talking there!
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