As the mother of a Marine that was deployed in support of both OEF and OIF, I want to give a resounding cry out to other parents preparing for this experience to do all you can to be as equipped as possible. Once your loved one leaves, the emotions and questions become so rampant that the basics seem to be lost in day to day living. So start by thinking practical. Have a notebook nearby to write down any information your child relays and make lists of information you want to obtain, from his new address, to his superior’s names, to what he may want you to send in care packages. The more that’s written down, the less jumbled your thoughts will be while you’re trying to get a handle on the reality of deployment.
Next, is the important paperwork. A signed will and powers of attorney (POA) for health care and property are essentials for anyone being deployed. These are not topics any parents wishes to discuss with our children, yet it’s a necessity. The military can provide these documents or a local attorney will prepare them explaining the purpose of each one. The POAs are used for a variety of things, including access to bank accounts, paying bills, purchasing items and making medical decisions if necessary. In fact, parents have had to use the POA for property with regard to identity theft, which happens frequently to deployed troops and is much easier for someone stateside to handle.
Also, have a copy of deployment orders, not only because they have all your child’s military information on them, but at times are required for some things like having cell phones temporarily shut off. Prior to deployment, discuss how bills will be paid; obtain signed checks, get account and policy numbers such as checking, credit cards, loans, auto insurance, etc. It’s important to understand exactly whom your child is delegating responsibility to while they’re gone.
You will want to create a list of military contacts. Each military branch has a liaison for families that remains stateside. If your child doesn’t have this readily available, you should be able to get any information you need from the main web site for their branch. Since the military doesn’t readily inform parents, as they do spouses, you may have to search and ask questions but diligence is worth the effort for your peace of mind.
One important item you need to know is that in case of a family emergency you must contact your local American Red Cross not the military. The Red Cross will verify your emergency, contact your child’s unit overseas and have them contact you as soon as they are able. If possible, discuss ahead of time, which situations your child would want to be notified of by the Red Cross, and what would be okay to relay via a letter or e-mail.
Finally, finding support for yourself before, during and after a child’s deployment is almost as important as breathing. Because there is no database for parents of those deployed, it’s not always easy to find others experiencing deployment, but these connections are worth the search. Whether it’s an organized support group or just other individuals, they will become an essential part of your deployment navigation system.
They’ll give you reassurance that you aren’t crazy when you sleep with your phone glued to your hand or hold your breath when the doorbell rings or if you cry when something little reminds you of your child, and when on some days you are obsessed with watching the news while other days you avoid it at all costs. They can truly relate. So, during this time when everyday life takes a back burner and emotional extremes are inevitable, by doing what you can to be informed prior to the deployment you’ve taken a big step in this journey of twists, turns and unknowns.
About the Author:
Kathy is the mother of four adult children and the author of several articles for military families, including the brochure, “Deployment: What’s A Family To Do?” and is a contributing author to Faith Deployed…Again to be published in August. She also writes a bi-weekly newsletter sharing encouragement and resources with women across the country. Her son served in the USMC from 2004-2008, which included deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. She has a real heart for military moms knowing the vast array of emotions that role encounters. She is the coordinator for Hope at Home Ministry in Rockford, Illinois, serving women with loved ones in the military. Kathy and her husband of thirty-two years, Mickey, live in Rockford, Illinois. Kathy is new to the HUN team this week and we are very fortunate to have her apart of the team as our “Military Families writer.”