It can be hard living in a deployed environment. Stress can hit you from many different angles. Maybe you are in a combat zone, dealing with stress back home, or maybe you are just plain lonely and depressed. It is not easy staying sane while you are away from your loved ones. I know I had a pretty tough time being gone for thirteen months. It seemed like I was never going to go home! That’s all I could think about for a while and it was robbing me of living my life. Don’t miss out on your life now worrying about the future. You will get through this and be on to the next phase of your life quicker than you know. I came home to a whole set of new problems and so will you. Quit waiting for the storm to pass and learn to dance in the rain! I can’t believe I’ve been home almost four years now. Looking back I wish I would not have wasted so much time stressing and just enjoyed that season of my life more. Here are 9 great tips to help you make it through deployment.
I remember when I deployed and was searching the Internet for ways to help me get through that seemingly never-ending year overseas. All that would pop up was information for military spouses. That drove me crazy! Yes, the spouses are important, but so are the soldiers. I just wanted to read something that made me feel that I wasn’t alone.
It is pretty hard to talk about your feelings when you are a soldier. You’re supposed to be tough. Things are getting better in the military to help soldiers, but there is still a way to go. It is important for soldiers to be tough, but you can still be tough and have weaknesses. We all have them anyways, so hiding them is not always good for us. I was an MP in the Army when I deployed and by no means do I claim to have had it the worst. But it sure wasn’t a cakewalk like it seemed like it was for a lot of the administration people.
Oh, how I envied them when I was stuck out in the middle of the desert for days at a time while they were back on base tanning by the pool with their hour lunch breaks. I am not putting down the admins by any means. We need everyone to make our armed forces what they are. I imagine they had problems of their own that I wasn’t aware of then. But it was just one more thing that had me upset. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?
I wouldn’t take it back, though. I did some pretty awesome stuff as an MP that most people will never experience. Now, I have a lot of cool stories to tell my children and grandchildren one day. So will you, even if it feels like there isn’t much going on now. And the same goes if you are stationed somewhere with lots going on. You are a soldier no matter what your job or deployment is like. So don’t judge yourself too harshly.
It is easy to do your job, then go back to your room and just chill, but try not to make it a daily habit. I made a lot of friends there which is always good. It really helped pass the time. But I got pretty depressed for a while. After about half way through and I withdrew from everybody as much as I could. I was sick of seeing the same people every day and just wanted to be alone. The halfway point is the worst I think.
It seems like you are never going to go home. But everyone else there is going through the same thing to some extent. They just aren’t talking about it. Make friendships early on when things are exciting and your spirits are high, so when it gets dull you have someone or many people to talk to about what you’re going through. Or if you are already at that point go make some friends.
2.Embrace the Suck
I guarantee you have heard this before. I heard it in basic training and it has stuck with me in many areas of my life that just plain suck. Deployments have sucky parts to it, but so does everything in life. Embrace that fact and live in the moment. Don’t live for just getting by and trying to make it until you leave, that will drive you nuts! Just relax and know that this time is so short compared to your whole life ahead of you.
3.Do something productive
Oh, how I wish I would have started a blog back when I deployed. I would have had a bit of time to write and learn everything I could about blogging. Do something or learn something that will help your future. Take some college courses online or if you are going to make the military a career do all the extra training you can to help you move up the ranks. Don’t be that guy or gal that stays an E-4 forever. Maybe draw up some plans for a business you want to start when you get home. Go back home with a new skill.
4.Trade movies with people
I added this tip because honestly sometimes you just need to chill. This was a big thing for us all on deployment. Most of us had external hard drives and we would swap movies and TV shows with each other. I got a Seagate from Amazon and it worked well for me. I never shopped online until I deployed and I probably spent a little too much money on there for real. Oh yea, don’t spend all of your money over there! I watched so many of my friends go home with very little because they kept buying stupid stuff.
5.Stay in Contact with People back home
I know not everyone has this option for many reasons. Maybe you have a family that kind of forgets about you while you are gone. I can totally sympathize there. If that is the case, talk to some friends. Facebook is great for staying connected with people back home. You sure figure out who your true friends are when you leave. Not everyone is good for you so don’t be afraid to break ties.
6.Don’t be jealous of others
Delete Facebook for a while if it is doing more damage than good. I did for about eight months or so and it made me feel better. Everyone looks like they are having so much fun back home and you wish you were there, but guess what? Most of those people back home are doing the same thing they have always done and will continue to do. You are doing something with your life. Be proud of that! And as for the people there with you, don’t compare yourself to them. That soldier that got put on the easiest job all year has nothing to do with you. You being jealous will only hurt you. Don’t stress, especially over the things that you cannot change.
7.Remember What You Are There For
Sometimes it’s easy to lose focus of the reason that you are there. You may feel like it is pointless being there, but remember there is more going on than what you can see right in front of you. We tend to live in a little box and have a hard time seeing outside of it sometimes. You may be out doing missions, sitting in a guard tower, searching vehicles, preparing food, or sitting in an office. But just remember you are a crucial piece of the bigger picture.
You are a part of something huge! Everyone back home can sleep safe and sound because of you! Few people have what it takes to be a soldier. Less than 0.5% of Americans serve their country and you are a part of that! Every soldier works together to get the job done. Every role is equally important to the success of the mission.
If there is something going on (whether it is on base or off) do it. Run that 5K or whatever it is. Give yourself things to look forward to while you are there. These are memories that will last a lifetime so make some. Plus, milestones can help the time pass. I was still in my training phase before deployment and I was chosen to go to Advanced Gunnery Training. It would have sounded fun, but I knew how my unit liked to overkill everything. We were put on every detail possible. We even had to clean the barracks after another unit before we could leave. While they sat back and watched us, I might add. I didn’t want to go, but now I am so happy I did. It was fun and a great experience that I was lucky enough to have had.
You might be so burnt out on everything. But you will miss it one day. Not all of it of course, but you will. Take a million pictures now because if you don’t a couple of years from now you will wish you did, like me (Yes, I know you think you never want to see that place again). I thought that too, but it was part of my life and I don’t have enough pictures. I am very thankful I am friends with our deployments combat cameraman, but it would still be cool to have more of my friends and me.
9.Seek the help you need
A lot of people aren’t good at making friends and that’s okay. That happens when we get older sometimes. I know I’m more of a loner and I like it that way now. But I used to feel weird for the longest time. There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. We are all different, but please don’t bottle everything up inside. Go talk to the Chaplin if you can’t work it out on your own. Seriously, don’t let yourself get deeper and deeper into depression. I imagine the many soldiers that committed suicide never thought they would, but depression can really take a hold of people. Don’t feel ashamed and worry about what other people will think about you if you reach out for help.
There was one guy on our deployment that had some bad things happen back home with his woman. His job was to guard the towers alone for eight-hour shifts, four days on and one day off, for five months. That was driving him crazy and he started feeling suicidal. He reached out for help. The higher-ups got him out of the towers and into a new position. He was a lot happier after that. No one thought badly of him and if they did they kept it to themselves.
Are you deployed and having a hard time? Do you have any other tips that would be helpful to our deployed soldiers? Let me know in the comments below. Thank you for your service, my friends!
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