The problem: military spouses never show their deployment stories. Keep reading because you’ll learn how the #ThisisDeployment campaign changed that!
Have you every stopped to think that there are two sides of every deployment? For every service member deployed overseas, there are spouses, children, parents, and siblings missing them back home.
Often, when we see deployment stories, it’s either a photo of a service member deployed to the desert, or it’s a Homecoming video of the family embracing. Neither one of these images reveals what a military spouse goes through during deployment. I decided it was time to change that.Check out the incredible results from the #ThisisDeployment campaign, which celebrates the military spouse side of deployment! #milspouse #militaryspouse Click To Tweet
Every October 26, we celebrate the National Day of the Deployed. I thought October was the perfect month to share military spouse deployment photos and stories. So I invited my readers to share their images using the hashtag #ThisisDeployment. I also worked with the creators of the MilCam app to make a special free filter for deployment photos. I hoped we could flood the internet with honest, heartfelt depictions of deployment moments. I wanted to see the loneliness of military spouses, but also their incredible strength.
And boy, did people respond! They gave us a behind-the-scenes look at what deployment is really like, from a military spouse perspective. There are hundreds of photos and stories online. You can search them on any social media platform using #ThisisDeployment. But here are some that really stand out.
Highlights from the #ThisisDeployment campaign
One mother submitted her photo taken in the hospital just after giving birth, when she was able to Skype with her deployed husband. He “met” his newborn through the phone screen:
One reader used the day of the deployed to reflect on her 3-week separation from her husband. While she admitted that it wasn’t a deployment, she realized just how much she had accomplished on her own during that time, with her three kids. After attending a hot air balloon festival with other military families, she said, “And you know what, I take that back. I wasn’t alone for all of it. And that makes all the difference.”
Rachel of Countdowns and Cupcakes shared this image on the Day of the Deployed to share her deployment truth:
Amanda, from Airman to Mom, celebrated the month of the deployed by collecting and posting a new deployment story every day! This active duty woman turned military spouse and mom originally intended to share service member deployment stories. But she quickly realized that spouses have their own stories, too. So she shared Spouse Spotlights throughout the month. You can see the entire deployment series here.
Throughout October, I shared an image each day that represented one aspect of deployment. This one was the most popular. It shows us that deployment is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to pace yourself and take care of yourself, while focusing on the finish line!
When military mom of four service members and author of the book Be Safe, Love Mom Elaine Brye shared the campaign on her Facebook page, she received incredible responses from military moms who shared their deployment experiences.
- One mother shared the emotional experience of talking to a deployed son while hearing explosions in the background. When the line suddenly went dead, she feared the worst. But three days later he was finally able to call back and confirm that he was all right. What an emotional three days for the mom!
- Another mom shared the silly gifts and toys that she sent in care packages to help keep up their spirits during deployment. 250 super bouncy balls and Frisbees should do the trick. She was touched when her son sent a video of him handing out the toys to local children.
- Parents of Special Operators shared how much comfort they received from the green dot, which meant that their service member was still alive, even if they weren’t able to communicate.
- Others shared the sad realities of deployment: some don’t return unharmed. Others lose family members and grandparents during deployment, and aren’t able to attend the funeral.
- Parents of multiple service members shared their advice: stay busy, don’t watch the news, send care packages, and expect some gray hairs!
- One military mom and service member shared this great photo collage of her deployment:
Another touching favorite was from Lindsay at Uplifting Anchor. It shows her husband returning from deployment when she was 36 weeks pregnant. Since she learned she was pregnant just after he deployed, they waited almost 9 months before he could meet his growing child. This photo shows the joy of a family that is finally whole:
I never learned of a pregnancy during a deployment. But I did have a baby during deployment who my husband wasn’t able to meet for six months. So I loved the joy in this picture, from a military spouse who labored and gave birth alone:
Of course, not all deployment moments are so likely to move you to tears. There were also plenty of posts that showed the funny side of deployment. This one, from Jenny Hale, shows the excitement of preparing her first care package:
Instagram had some great photos of deployment’s every-day moments. There were photos of care packages and Skype sessions, surprise flowers and surprise challenges. From flat tires to car accidents to broken appliances and sick kids, military spouses showed us that deployment can be frustrating and messy. But military spouses also acknowledged that these challenges made them stronger, and that they felt more independent when they were able to handle repairs and emergencies on their own. This one, from a mom of 4 kids, shows that even something as mundane as going to the dentist can be a real challenge during deployment:
There are also some inspirational ideas that every military spouse might appreciate. One unit started a program called “Deployment Buddies,” where spouses signed up to be a secret gift-giver to another person each month during the deployment. This photo shows how military spouses support and encourage each other in creative ways:
While some spouses showcased their weight-loss journey during deployment, there were also many pictures of the deployment version of Netflix and chill, which turns out to be either Netflix and wine, Netflix and pizza, or Netflix and cake. Pick your poison, but I guarantee you aren’t the only military spouse using food to cope with the challenges of deployment.
So there you have it, military spouses! #Thisisdeployment, as seen through your eyes! Thank you for everyone who shared the challenge, the joy, and the pain of deployment for military families. I am blown away by the success of the #ThisisDeployment campaign, and I hope you will continue to use it throughout the year.