The Depot

Coping with Deployment Separation During the Holidays


Although major deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq have slowed or stopped altogether, the U.S. military continues to deploy to various spots around the globe. That means that military families are left coping with deployment separation during the holidays.

While material things cannot in anyway replace a loved one, a personal or coveted item can help someone coping with deployment separation. Maybe the deployed service member keeps personal family items with them during the deployment to help ease the homesickness, or family members of a deployed military member have keepsakes of their loved one, personal items can help people coping with deployment separation.

Whether you are getting ready to deploy, or your loved one is facing a deployment, there are some personal items that make good gifts to help folks coping with deployment separation. 

Coping with deployment separation is rough, especially during the holiday season when usually families gather to spend time together. A deployed family member is a noticeable and tangible void. However, while the void can’t be filled, there are things that you can do to bring you closer to your deployed loved one or to those you might have left behind (if you are the service member).

For family members who might be coping with deployment separation a good item to show support for your deployed loved one might be to purchase a military spouse clothing item or military spouse item that shows you are proud of them. The men and women in the U.S. military who deploy need the support of those on the home front as they endure the stressors of deployment. Showing your support will make them feel good.

For those who are deployed, coping with deployment separation can be a little easier if they have items that remind them of home. Maybe a customized mug or an engravable coin that they can always carry with them.

It is important to remember if you are giving someone who is deploying a military gift that you think will help them with coping with deployment separation that the item be something portable. It likely isn’t a good idea to give them a large plaque or a shadowbox. You can always save those for when they return. Portability and size are key when giving someone something that they will take with them on deployment. Keep it small, keep it meaningful.

If you are a service member who is deploying, your options to help someone coping with deployment separation are a little more robust. You can give them something personal, like maybe a set of custom dog tags with your name and information on them. Ask them to always wear them while you are gone and that when you return, you will both take off the dog tags. You can also give them something larger and more personalized to reflect your service and their sacrifice.

If personal gifts aren’t your thing and maybe you want to help a buddy who is coping with deployment separation, tactical gifts that help while the person is deployed can help reduce stress. Holsters, vests, water bladders, backpacks and other tactical items are great to improve work conditions for your buddy on the ground.

If they are facing a deployment in austere conditions, consider gifts like solar phone chargers and knives. Items that make life easier on the ground will help eliminate stress and enable your pal to focus on the mission.

Comfort items like sweatpants and hoodies, especially if they are deploying someplace cold, make a huge difference. These make great pajamas especially if that CHU you are sleeping in doesn’t have heat (if you are lucky enough to even have a CHU). Ponchos, poncho liners, field jackets, wool caps, gloves, and other cold weather items can help fight off Jack Frost and those items would certainly be welcomed by your buddy.

A deployed service member can help loved ones coping with deployment separation by keeping in touch regularly as the mission allows. Most U.S. military personnel on deployment have access to e-mail, mail service and even video teleconferencing. Long gone are the days of a family member dropping a letter in the mail and it takes two months to reach the service member at their deployment site. Today, most mail is delivered much faster, including packages and while e-mail is super-fast, a handwritten note goes a long way, especially for those loved ones who are older. Save the e-mails and video calls for those who are younger and grasp the technology.

Keeping in touch with folks back home is a huge way to help them cope with the fact that you are not there. If you are fortunate to have a military occupational specialty that gives you regular access to e-mail, make it a point to routinely check in and let them know you miss them and love them.

If your only access is the internet café on the FOB, try to get e-mails out as much as you can so everyone back home knows how you are doing. Set expectations; they will know how busy you are, but understand they need to hear from you.

As a loved one back home, understand that your loved who is deployed might not have access to communication tools to keep in touch. Access to communications equipment might be sporadic. Make it a point to have your cellphone accessible at all times and ensure that your service member knows that late at night you won’t answer because you are sleeping.

E-mail is a great way to keep in touch because there are no time zones to consider. A deployed service member can send a note at two in the morning and it won’t matter.

Remember, deployments are hard on everyone involved but they can be more manageable with just a little effort.

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