7 fun ways to do a deployment countdown
Deployment countdowns can be one of the fun things about deployment! Every day passed is another day closer to them coming home. Sometimes it is frustrating to watch a countdown creep along so slowly. But then there comes a day where you suddenly realize that you have made a dent in the deployment. And then you reach the halfway point. Deployment countdowns give you moments to celebrate and feel encouraged.
There’s no wrong way to do a deployment countdown. You can use an app, a calendar, a chalkboard, and little stones in a jar. There are also a few fun ways to do deployment countdowns with kids. I’ll lay out the options for you here, then you can decide which ones you like.
Deployment countdowns for adults:
Wall calendar: The old school method. There is something very therapeutic about putting a big X on each day as you finish it. I also use these to write down memorable events from the kids to share with my husband later.
On your phone: Use an app like the Donut of Misery or Doing Time to watch the circular graph change color as each day passes. You will have to guess on the Homecoming date, but you can always adjust it later.
Chalkboard: You can find a cute chalkboard picture frame and write down how many days left of the deployment. Each day is a clean slate, literally!
Stones in a jar: Use two mason jars, one marked “Days left in deployment” and the other labelled “days they have been gone.” Each day take a stone from the days left jar and put it in the days gone jar. This is a nice visual reminder of how far you have come (though it can be a little depressing for the first month or so.)
Deployment countdowns for kids:
A ‘kiss’ each night: Before deployment, fill up a large jar with Hershey kissses, one for each day of the deployment. You will have to guess the Homecoming date, but you can always add or subtract some later. Each night, give the child a “kiss” from their deployed parent.
Visual timelines: for young children, use pictures of events to show how time will pass during deployment. Make a poster or display of each month, with a picture of something that will happen that month. For example, a pumpkin for Halloween or a Christmas tree in December. Line up all the events that will happen between now and the end of deployment. Then use a photo or a cutout of the service member and move them along the timeline as you approach each holiday.
I created this fun printable wall calendar to help kids countdown deployment. It’s customizable and works for any branch or length of deployment.
Paper chain: I do this with my children the final month of deployment, as we get excited for Homecoming. They cut out paper strips and we tape or staple them into links to form a chain. Each day, they rip off one link. When the chain is gone, Dad is coming home! I sometimes have to add or subtract some when the dates change.
An important reminder:
Deployment countdowns are fun, but be careful about sharing them on social media. OPSEC, which stands for Operational Security, means being careful not to discuss troop locations or movements. If you announce that a unit is coming home on a certain day, then their flight or ship may get rerouted and delayed for security reasons.
It is ok to say something generic like “this is the month we’ve been waiting for!” But don’t share pictures of countdowns that have a specific date. And even when you are excited about the end of deployment, don’t post dates or locations online. You don’t want the Homecoming date to get pushed back because of something you posted!