May 13, 2013
By Casey Lehmann, Family Readiness Support Assistant, Wisconsin National Guard
Just as there are two sides to every coin, there can also be two sides to a person’s military commitment.
The year 2013 has brought a lot of memorable “ten years ago today” moments so far, which started my service as a military spouse. My husband and I met in our National Guard unit and were married in March 2003, a couple of days before reporting to our mobilization station. Yes, I said our mob station, as we were a dual military couple for the first two years of our marriage. We spent our honeymoon in Iraq (biggest beach ever, but no water), and when we returned home we were even closer after experiencing that deployment together.
Knowing we wanted to have a family at some point, I chose not to re-enlist since my husband was already Active Guard and Reserve. Being a soldier was his full-time job. In 2008, we had a permanent change of station move with our 1-year-old son. We moved two-and-a-half hours away from where we were living to a larger city where the only people we knew were at the armory.
A year after we moved away from our friends and family, my husband deployed for his second tour in Iraq. This is where I got to see the other side of deployment and had to fight the feeling of being left behind. I was asked by many people if I was going to move back home during the deployment, but I chose not to because I had made other friends and knew I could hop in the car at anytime to visit family.
I stayed active with the Family Readiness Group, helped plan events, and became best friends with another spouse. Some of the deployment was easy for me, because I had been where my husband currently was. I had been on that base in the past and could picture it in my mind. Also, being prior service, I understood the military jargon, military life overseas, and the general process of a deployment.
In 2003, I didn’t really think the military would send us overseas for a whole year, but this deployment I knew not to expect anything less, and that knowledge helped me keep it in perspective. The hardest times for me were holidays, because the last time we both missed out on the festivities together and this time I felt kind of guilty because I got to share the holidays with our son and family and my spouse didn’t. I also thought that since we had been through deployment before, we wouldn’t struggle with reintegration as much as other couples might. I found later that it didn’t matter and that each deployment is different for everyone.
The two sides of my military coin have led me to my current job as a Family Readiness Support Assistant for the WI Army National Guard. With this position, I support commanders and Family Readiness Groups to make sure they are ready for whatever may come their way. I am able to support military families throughout the deployment cycle while keeping a Soldier’s perspective in mind.
The best part is that I happen to support the units I have been a part of with both sides of my coin for the past 15 years, and feel I have come home again. I am blessed and absolutely love that I am able to continue to serve my country and support other military spouses. The Army has been teaching its Soldiers resiliency in the past few years, and I have recently completed this training so I can take it back to the families and teach them skills to bounce back after adversity. I have learned to be resilient through my years as a military spouse, but I sure wish I could have been taught those skills way back in 2003 when I first deployed.