Deployment and Covid-19: Encouragement for Military Families

Christmas - Brandi Cain blog

Wow, what a year March was, am I right?!

All joking aside: deployments during COVID-19 feel like the worst kind of Groundhog Day–never making forward progress to being reunited. During ‘normal times,’ a homecoming date is like a constantly moving target, but just as the coronavirus began to spread to the United States, it also began feeling like welcoming my husband home was slipping right through my hands in plain sight. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

My husband, Mathew, is an Army Reservist, and this is our first deployment as a married couple. He left home in May of 2019, but before that, he spent about 3 months training in Arkansas. In the past year and a half, we have spent about 45 days in the same place as each other.

We met in 2013 while he was on active duty and stationed at Fort Bragg, so we are used to the typical training and separations together. A few weeks ago, my social media memories showed a photo of us on FaceTime…two years in a row on the same date.

During the coronavirus, the ambiguity is the hardest part because for the longest time, we had a range of dates, and I planned a large part of my life around that date. The little things, like getting the house ready, planning a homecoming party, and buying those welcome home grocery staples, were all centered around a highly anticipated date: until they weren’t.

As the coronavirus spread, we anticipated that his return home might be delayed, and just as the President rolled out a stoppage to all domestic troop movement, we held our breath for how it might affect us—whether that’s a deployment extension, early homecoming, or late homecoming. A few days ago, just as the military suspended all troop movement related to deployments, my husband was able to get back to the United States, going right into quarantine. We watched our original homecoming date roll by with no definitive return-home date to plan our life around. And in a tinge of jealousy, we also watched as others around the country maintained their normal homecoming reunions.

But in the midst of all this, I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude. Both of us are healthy and happy, and we’re both safe. This deployment gave me an even deeper sense of gratitude for Gold Star families and the pain and struggle they go through at the loss of their loved ones in service to our country. I feel thankful that my husband can serve our country in this capacity, and I feel thankful that all our bills are paid, we have a roof over our heads, and at some point: this deployment will end.

Waco - Brandi Cain blog

I have done a couple of things to keep myself busy during this time, to include raising my hand for opportunities, like this one! It fills my time while I wait for the days to pass until my husband comes home, and it gives me the chance to help others who might be going through similar situations.

I am also pretty regularly working out (Peloton has a free 90 day use of their app if you need at home workouts), and I am finding things around our house that I can do that will make both our lives a little better; like actually cleaning out the cars, finally organizing our closet, going through things we don’t need or use, and watching a movie he says that I’ve always needed to watch (I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies!).

I have also done other productive things, like shopping for my elderly neighbors, filling out our Census, updating my voter registration, and signing up to give blood. All of these things help me stay focused on improving our quality of life, improving life for those around me, and improving myself.

One thing I do want you to know is that you are not alone in all of this, and even though it may feel like most of those around you are complaining about trivial things, your greater military family understands, and one day, this will all end. A current deployment, a quarantine, or a training, or even if your loved one is heading off to support COVID-19 efforts: it all has to end at some point. How we choose to spend the time, positively or negatively, the days will pass either way.

I am choosing to focus on the simple opportunities around me to make life a little easier for others, for myself, and for my community. It’s the least I can do to serve outside of a uniform.

Posted by Brandi Cain, NMFA Volunteer and military spouse