The #ThisisDeployment campaign shares military family stories.
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.
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 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:
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:
Even if you aren’t having a baby, raising kids of any age can be challenging during deployment. Parents shared many pictures of kids coping with deployment emotions in various ways– carrying a Daddy doll around with them, wearing their deployed parent’s uniform, or sleeping with a bear or blanket that reminds them of their service member. While there were numerous screenshots of video chats with service members and their kids, our favorite is this one. The little boy called his Dad in Japan to get advice on tools and help with a project:
We also loved this photo of a solo Dad raising teenage daughters during deployment. They kicked off deployment day 1 with face masks for all of them:
There were plenty of posts that showed the funny side of deployment. This one shows a couple celebrating their anniversary over Skype. The wife put her wedding dress on for fun, but shared that she got stuck in it and had to call for help at 1 AM! What a crazy fun memory for both of them:
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. This heartbreaking image is a military spouse who went through a miscarriage during deployment and had to cope with losing their baby on her own:
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.