Tag Archives: new military spouses

8 Tips to Help Your Spouse Reintegrate After Deployment

Welcome home, soldier!

He’s finally returning from his deployment. You are excited and anxious at the same time. Let’s face it, no matter how long he’s been deployed, everything has changed. He may have seen some disturbing things. You became more independent. The kids and pets have grown since he last saw them in person. Things change.

Here are eight tips to help your spouse’s reintegration into the family easier.

First, is he coming home with his unit or by himself? The Air Force tends to send one person or maybe two people instead of an entire squadron or flight. So homecomings are not usually as big a ceremony as the Army or Navy do it. Once, when we lived in Alaska, the whole fighter squadron deployed together. There was a big homecoming for that one, but usually, it was just my husband and maybe one other person returning at the same time.

I did get to attend my Army nephew’s homecoming when we were all stationed in Hawaii together. It was a spectacular event, even though it was about 2 a.m. when his unit finally arrived. Families gathered in a large hangar with large screens set up to see the buses roll in and then see our loved ones file into another part of the room separated by curtains, and then finally appear on our side of the curtain.

My nephew, left, salutes the Good Chaplain, right, while 5-year-old Mason looks on during my nephew’s homecoming in December 2012 . We did not know Mason was there until we saw the photo.

My nephew’s son was about 5 at the time. It also happened to be Christmas Day. My nephew’s wife told their son she had a big Christmas present for him, but they had to go pick it up. When we got to the hangar and saw the buses drive up, we asked Mason if he knew what his present was, and he said, “A school bus.” But then he saw his dad on the screen and said, “That’s my dad,” in a voice filled with awe.

Lesson #1: No matter how they come home — alone or in a group — remember that other people are going to want to see them and welcome them home. I know I always resented when the Good Chaplain’s staff came to the airport or the reunion spot with me because I wanted him to myself. I didn’t even want to share him with the girls. Let others greet him and then steal him away.

Lesson #2: Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. It’s okay to run to him and give him a hug and a kiss, but don’t scream and shout and cause a big ado. If he is in uniform, PDA rules still apply.

Lesson #3: Take things slowly when you get home. Allow him to acclimate to the surroundings and the changes. He’s probably got jetlag and is dog tired from flying halfway around the world, so let him rest and relax for a few days. Don’t throw a big party or plan a big trip for immediately after he gets home. Save the party for the following weekend. And you know he doesn’t want to get on a plane or leave home again very soon. Keep the first week or so low key with just you and the children. Also, as tempted as you are to do so, don’t throw all his chores and responsibilities back on him the minute he walks through the door. I know I am guilty of this one. After months of handling everything, you just want him to give the kids a bath for once or for the next year.

Lesson #4: This ties into number 3. Allow him time to get used to the changes at home. The best advice I ever got was to treat him as a guest for a few days to get used to the new way of doing things. The colonel’s wife, who gave me that advice, told me the story of how while her husband was deployed, their child learned to cross the street by himself, but hubby did not know that. So one day, shortly after his return, the child went across the street to play, and his father spanked him for doing it. You can’t remember to tell your returning spouse all the little things like that, nor do you want to bombard them with everything that happened while they were gone. So don’t have them do anything but observe for a little while. You’ve handled everything this long; you can do it for a few days more.

Lesson #5: Do plan a little alone time with your spouse in the first week. It may be awkward at first, like when you were first dating, to know what to talk about or to be intimate again. Go for a walk. Hold hands. Put the kids to bed and then sit on the couch and just talk and cuddle. It will come back soon enough.

Lesson #6: Let him talk or not about what he saw and did. Don’t pressure him to reveal things he is not ready for you to know about. Mr. Tech Sergeant didn’t tell us about a mortar round going through his room until months after returning from his first deployment. But do listen to the stories he does have to tell. It is important to share what he wants to share so you can appreciate what he did and saw.

Lesson #7: Help him recognize the children’s changes and why they might not react to him the way he expects them to. We had one friend whose small daughter did not know him and cried when he tried to pick her up. She was just a toddler, and although she saw pictures of him, this man was a stranger to her. It took a few days for her to come around. You could tell his feelings were hurt, but sometimes children are that way. They may not go to the parent who was deployed for questions or advice for a while because that’s been your role for so long.

Lesson #8: Most of all, be patient! Things will never return to what they used to be, but they can be even better if you take time to get reintegrated.

Now that we’ve talked about homecomings, let’s talk about the actual deployments and what to do during those trying times.

Until then,

Vicki

What advice would you give for post-deployment reunions? Answer in the reply below.

3 Ways Military Spouses Can Keep Their Own Identity

I believe in any marriage, each party loses its identity somewhat. You become Mrs. So-and-So, or someone’s wife or husband. It is inevitable. The Good Chaplain was well known before he entered the military, so I spent a lot of time as “his wife.” I had a moment of satisfaction when he went into a store, and someone asked him if he was my husband.

It happens in the military too. I couldn’t remember my Social Security number for years because we used his for everything on base. In the past, spouses were often identified by who their husband was. “She’s the chaplain’s wife.” “That guy is married to the wing commander.” I’m guilty of it too. Heck, the title of my blog is Chappy T Wife. Today, we spouses try hard not to identify each other by our husband’s rank or job. But I like to know what the military member does so I can put things in context.

In our house, the Good Chaplain knew the military members he worked with each day, and I knew the children and spouses. That made for a good team. But it is easy to lose your identity in the military unless you take the time to be yourself, remember who you are outside the service, and develop your own persona.

I have three steps to help you do that.

First, ask yourself who you are besides so-and-so’s spouse. What do you do for work? What are your passions? What is your role in the family? How would your high school/college friends see you? Build your own identity on these things. I was the city editor of our local paper when the Good Chaplain was asked if he was my husband.

Second, develop your own interests. I love to read, and I read a lot. I can read 40 books in a year while the Good Chaplain maybe finishes two. I love football; he loves hockey. We support each other in those sports. I’m an extreme extrovert; he is an extrovert but not to my extreme. Come evening, I need to just sit and relax in front of the television, while he usually starts projects after dinner. Find a group of people with similar interests and socialize with them. A good marriage and partnership do not require you to be joined together at the hip.

Thirdly, don’t identify yourself by your husband’s rank or job. This is a hard one, and I am guilty of it. I like to think I would introduce myself as the chaplain’s wife because I was so proud of him, but I think it’s because that is how I identified myself. At most spouse club events, I would introduce myself with my name and maybe further identify as a writer. The Good Chaplain’s job would come up eventually, but rarely the rank. You definitely don’t want to be the one walking around, saying, “My husband is a colonel.” Or a sergeant, or an airman, or a general. We don’t care. We want to know you.

Have confidence in who you are, not who your spouse is. You may lose a bit of your identity in the military, but if you follow your own interests and path, you will find people will recognize you and ask your spouse if he is related to you.

Next time I want to talk about what happens when your spouse retires.

Until then,

Vicki

How do you keep your identity in your marriage and in the military? Answer in the comment section below. Don’t forget to follow this blog so you never miss out on any of my posts.

Last Minute Plan Changes Can Be Frustrating for New Military Spouses

I’m sorry.

I owe you an apology. In reading over my post of November 18, it sounded rather negative to me. My intention with this blog is to put a positive spin on your role as a military spouse.

I dare say I might even be a little Pollyanna-ish about the military lifestyle. But I loved the life and miss it now that the Good Chaplain is retired. I’m proud of his career, achievements, and the way he related to the airmen, no matter their rank. That is his gift.

I also loved the camaraderie and friendships that go along with the common bond of being a military spouse.

But in reality, there will be hard times. You might have a baby without your husband present because his ship is delayed. Or the military version of Murphy’s Law will happen, and everything will break as soon as he deploys. Mrs. Tech Sergeant can attest to this, and I know many others can as well.

Or the big one this year — COVID-19 hit, and all your plans changed, too. And speaking of changing plans, that leads us nicely into our next question: Are you willing to not make plans far in advance or change your plans at the last minute? Because that will happen.

The girls and I took many a road trip without the Good Chaplain.

I’ve often traveled with just the girls to visit family because the Good Chaplain’s plans changed. I remember when our niece, Hannah, was born. The girls and I drove to Illinois alone because the Good Chaplain couldn’t make the trip. We were stuck in Illinois because of a tropical storm that stalled over central Georgia, causing major flooding. And that turned out to be a good thing because Hannah was two weeks late!

Get-togethers with friends are often made last minute because you never know your husband’s work schedule. Most military members have to be flexible because they never know when they will get called in. Many times we’ve had to leave a movie or dinner because of an emergency call. I didn’t always handle these interruptions to my night out with grace. Let’s just say flexibility was the “f” word in our house.

Friends are so important for your social life since your spouse may not always be available.

I can’t even tell you the number of family gatherings and holidays he missed, including his own family reunion. In the photos, one of the girls held up a picture of him. My family seemed to get together every year or two for various celebrations. My sister, the organizer, would want to know well in advance if we would attend. My answer was, I don’t know. It depended on our move schedule, the Good Chaplain’s deployment schedule, or even what was happening in the world that might cause leaves to be canceled — like our current pandemic.

Terrinoni Family Reunion in California in 2002, while the Good Chaplain was deployed. Illinois Girl is holding his picture.

I know it can be lonely to go to things without your spouse, or not to go at all, but you will handle it with confidence. Just one word of advice: Get travel insurance in case you have to cancel at the last minute.

Next week I will answer the question, “Will I lose myself because I am a military spouse?”

Until then,

Vicki

What are your experiences of missing out because of the military? Answer in the comment section below. And don’t forget to subscribe to this blog, so you never miss any of my riveting insights!

Job or Career: What Military Spouses Should Know

When the Good Chaplain went on active duty with the U.S. Air Force, I had a decision to make. I was the city editor for a local paper. I’d been working on newspapers for the last 10 years, and it was something I loved. But, I also knew our new lifestyle would include frequent moves, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be bogged down working full-time.

Luckily, my job was portable, and I ended up becoming a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines nationwide. Sadly, we did not need my income to survive. His salary as a beginning captain was what the two of us were making combined in the civilian world.

As your spouse enters his military career or continues if you married someone already in the military, chances are you will have to make the same decision. Do you want to work outside of the house, work from home, or not work at all? And the biggest question to ask yourself is, do you want a job or a career?

That question is key to the job search. Some careers lend themselves better to the military lifestyle. Teaching and nursing are two that come to mind. But keep in mind, it can be like starting all over again when you move to a new market. I’ve known many teachers who have to start as a first-year teacher each time they move. That sucks.

Making the decision of whether to pursue a career or a job depends on several factors.

  1. What is the area job market like? Is it saturated in your career field? What kind of professional positions are open? Is the area depressed with a high unemployment rate? Do some research before you even move to the area. I contacted the newspaper in Minot, North Dakota before we even left Alaska, and the editor called me while we were packing out, so I knew I had a job in my career field when I got there.
  2. If you are pursuing a professional position, do you have the necessary certifications? The military just made it a little easier for some professionals to move around with new reciprocal certification rules. Under the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the service branches can reimburse spouses up to $1,000 for any re-licensing or certification costs because of a military move. Check with your branch to see what it does. Also, many states are using license portability for military spouses. This action helps make the licensing and certification go quicker. For more information on state-sponsored reciprocal agreements, click here. The site provides a map of which states are involved in the agreement and finding information on your profession.

Finding the right job is not always easy for military spouses, but using the tools I gave you last week and the information from today, it can be accomplished.

Next week I will talk about whether you want a job on base or off.

Until then,

Vicki

Share your experiences trying to transfer licenses or certificates in the comments below.