COMMUNICATION DURING DEPLOYMENT
The need for parents to communicate with and do everything possible for their child kicks into overdrive when the child is deployed. We are blessed to live in a time when there are several ways for families to communicate with those deployed. However, first and foremost we must have their correct complete mailing address. If it wasn’t available before they left search their unit’s web page or call the Family Readiness Officer (FRO) to obtain it.
Sending letters via regular mail, takes longer than other methods but we’ve all heard stories about soldiers that read and reread letters from home because a handwritten card or letter is like receiving a piece of someone’s heart. If your child’s unit is not always at a main base, they may get letters delivered in bunches. For this reason it helps to number the letters so if several are delivered at the same time, the order in which to read them is obvious. Making a copy of the letter for yourself helps remember what you told them about and may avoid repetition.
In this age of technology, there are several different options available for communicating such as e-mail and Skype. However, these are still not fool proof. Their Internet service can be very intermittent, some troops aren’t near computers more than once a month, and because some of our troops must pay for Internet, if they aren’t set up with an account they have no access. So don’t expect a quick response. Also, large attachments can slow down a system that already works at a snail’s pace.
We at home can sign up at www.motomail.us to send FREE quick letters via the Internet that are actually printed out, sealed and delivered to the recipient usually within three days just as if they were sent via the postal system. Their complete address must be entered to register and then you are able to send up to five letters per day. These letters are limited in length with no attachments allowed. I know from experience this works extremely well and it’s a fast, easy way to send a quick note. Again, having the letter on your computer avoids trying to remember what was written. Unfortunately, Moto mail is not available to the troops. Their only option to send letters is via U.S. Postal Service, which is free. However, they are charged regular postage rates for any letters or packages over one ounce. For this reason, I occasionally sent large envelopes with postage already on it, just in case my son needed to send paperwork or other items home, since stamps aren’t always readily available.
Assuming they’ll get frequent calls from their child has disappointed many parents. We must realize that like Internet access, the luxury of calling home varies based on their responsibilities, location, and the availability of phones. To prepare for calls, the family can register at www.oif.spawareurope.net/ for a phone card then give the child the pin. The account is managed online, making it very convenient. Other phone cards can also be used, but are more expensive per minute. When a call is made, there may be a delay, and since you may get cut off be sure to say the important things first. I always kept a notebook near with things I wanted to tell our son, and it was also handy to write down what he told me.
Packages are not only the highlight of the recipient’s day, but by purchasing and sending items, a parent feels they’re doing something tangible for their child. The post office offers priority flat rate boxes where regardless of weight the cost is the same. These can be picked up at any post office or ordered at no cost from www.USPS.com.
As far as what to send, think practical, like no chocolate in the summer, no liquids, aerosols, or items containing pork. Send food and hygiene items separately or put them in Ziploc bags. Even sealed food can get the taste of soap when packed in the same box. Sending homemade goodies isn‘t recommended, since delivery time can vary from one- three weeks, but things like rice krispie treats, homemade Chex mix, and dipped pretzels do ship well. Regularly send toothbrushes, q-tips, small packets of unscented wipes, eye drops, individual drink mixes, hard candy, lip balm and gum. Be sure to tape all seams of any box to keep out the sand. Whenever possible send extras since most packages from home are shared.
Nothing totally eliminates the emotional pain deployment brings to a parent but knowing that through letters, cards, e-mails, and packages they are brightening the long endless days their child my be experiencing, helps relieve a small part of the loneliness.