The excitement of your deployed spouse’s return goes without saying. The welcome home celebration planned by the wives’ club that you have probably been a participant in may actually act as a buffer to help ease into your reunion. Let’s talk about what you may expect over the next few months after they return.
Family members and friends gather around as they anxiously wait for their loved ones to return from a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
It is natural to want to spend a lot of time with your spouse once they arrive. You’ll probably want to jump right back in to the social activities that you both enjoyed before they left. If you have children, you may even want to plan a family vacation. Don’t. Be flexible to their social planning desires.
Give them time to recover from the journey home first. They will probably have jet lag if they flew from their point of deployment. Land transport is tiring, too. Coming via sea is exhausting as well since they were still standing duty and doing their daily tasks right up until their arrival.
That doesn’t mean that you need to totally isolate or ignore them. Let them tell you what they need. If they just want to snuggle with you for the next three days, then that’s what you do. If they need a little time and space to themselves, then take a deep breath and let them have it. By doing this, you increase their chances of having a smoother transition back into the family.
Cpl. Marcus Chischilly, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, embraces family members during the 1/7 advanced party homecoming at Victory Field Aug. 3. Chischilly’s family designed T-shirts to show their support and excitement.
Your spouse may have seen or even experienced some pretty horrific things while they were deployed, especially if they were in a hazardous duty arena. They may appear withdrawn and isolate themselves from you, other family members, and friends. They might avoid intimacy because they aren’t sure how to cope with it.
You may notice them demonstrating a hyper-awareness of their surroundings. Startling at loud noises and flashbacks are other behaviors. Their nightmares may make sleeping with them challenging initially. They might also shows signs of having problems with becoming easily distracted.
Lance Cpl. Curtis Means kisses his wife Samara during a homecoming at Camp Pendleton, California. Means a 24-year-old native of Atlanta, spent five months in Helmand province, Afghanistan, fabricating and modifying equipment in support of various missions throughout his deployment.
You will be excited about seeing your spouse when they arrive. However, there are other emotions you may be feeling as well – nervousness, fear. All kinds of thoughts will be running through your head. “Will he think I gained too much weight?” “I hope she still loves me.” “Will he be mad about the car?” “Will she recognize me?” “Will I recognize him?” You need to remember that they also have similar thoughts running through their heads (well, maybe not the one about the car).
Chief Naval Aircrewman Stan Culbertson is greeted by his daughters during a homecoming at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The Screaming Eagles returned from a six-month deployment supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
As stated before, your spouse will be having similar emotions to what you are experiencing as they are waiting to disembark. They will also be worrying about whether they are still a part of the family. Since they have been deployed, you have been taking care of things that they may have handled while they were home. While they are proud that you were able to take care of things, they may also feel like they are no longer needed.
Your returning service member is the one who will be demonstrating the most physical symptoms. Depending on what they experienced during their deployment, they may demonstrate one or more of the following physical symptoms of stress.
If your spouse starts to demonstrate these symptoms, counseling is available to help them work through the issues.
A little girl cries out with tears of joy when her daddy, along with more than 300 soldiers from XVIII Airborne Corps and 82nd Airborne Division, reunite with their loved ones after serving a yea-long deployment to Iraq during a ceremony at Pope Army Airfield.
Children tend to reflect the emotions of the parents. So if you are experiencing and showing fear, excitement, or anxiety, then expect your children to do the same. At some ages, they have problems understanding why Mommy or Daddy had to leave for such long periods of time. Because of this they may experience an anxiousness or uneasiness toward the parent returning from deployment. Their ages will often determine their reactions to the returning service member.
Infants may become fussy when your returning service member tries to interact with them. The baby may also start crying and try to get away from them. This is a normal reaction. They simply do not recognize your spouse and with time and exposure to them, these reactions will soon disappear.
Toddlers are much more expressive about their feelings. They can cling to you, not wanting anything to do with your spouse; acting shy. Again, this is because they may not recognize them. You might also see them demonstrate their fears through temper tantrums. Some toddlers may revert to behaviors that they had long put behind them.
Pre-schoolers are different from toddlers in that they tend to get the guilts. They often feel that they were the reason for the deploying spouse’s departure. As a result, they will be hesitant to be around them at first, needing reassurances that everything is okay. Some pre-schoolers respond by demanding attention and doing things they know will get them in trouble, just to get the attention.
Primary School Age: This age group tends to wear their emotions on their sleeves as well. They are usually thrilled about the parent coming home and often talk non-stop about things that happened while they were deployed. This child may demonstrate some guilt if they feel they haven’t met what they feel are their deployed parent’s standards.
Teenagers can be somewhat of a challenge. They may not want to change their busy social lives to accommodate their returning parent. They may also be excited or feeling guilty of letting the parent down, depending on their relationship with that parent.
In conclusion, these are just a few things that you can look for when your service member returns from deployment. You may not see all of them demonstrated in your family, but it doesn’t hurt to be aware of them so that you will be prepared if they do.