Readers’ Forum: ‘I’ll see you in a year’

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Paul Kucharek returns home after his six-month deployment in Ali Base, Iraq in September 2005. No relation to author. (Universe Archives)

“Deployment”. The word of all feelings. Joy. Sadness. Gladness. Longing. Military deployments are extremely hard on my family but bring some of the greatest blessings.

On April 1, 2015, my dad sits us down right before General Conference starts. “Welcome to the 185th semiannual General Conference of the Church of…” The TV gets muted, and my parents look at all of us kids with tears in their eyes and a look of dread, the look of bad news.

“Deployment” was all I had to hear before my mind shut down. Tears welled in my eyes. My breath began to increase more rapidly. All the nerves in my body were trying to shock the news out of me like it wasn’t just said. “April first,” my mind thought. “You got me!” I begin to say. “Happy April Fool’s Day!” Me and my brother erupt in laughter; our parents really got us good. They look at each other again, knowing they messed up with bearing the news on the one joke day of the year. My mom begins to say, “No, honey. This isn’t a joke,” before her tears swallow up her words. 2015 to 2016. My dad was away from home.

Deployment can be defined, by va.gov, as the movement of armed forces, including from at home, the other side of the world, and everything in between. Military branches that deploy include Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force. Each of the military branches serve different length deployments, different location, and different needs according to the needs of the world. The lengths of each of them can range from 3 months to multiple years away from home. They’re physically demanding, time consuming, and cause a lot of strain on relationships with the soldiers. Deployments have a generally negative connotation with relationships. These relationships that military members hold from home are crucial to the wellbeing of themselves.

With a good support system, deployments can pose a greater positive effect than negative effect on themselves and their relationship with others.

In a study done by John H. Newby and others, they asked soldiers to leave a comment about their deployment, either negative or positive about the experience as a whole. Many of them delt with the relationships that soldiers encountered. Soldiers commented positive experiences, such as, “more friends”, “more knowledge of the world”, “I got to know everyone a little better, and also I found one great role model”, “greater bond with buddies”, “closer friendships, experience, the chance to see a different place, different culture”. Keeping relationships stable and positive can prove to significantly improve soldiers’ experiences from being away from home.

Not only were they able to grow a positive effect on themselves with others, but they were able to grow positively within themselves. Mental health for soldiers skyrocketed during deployment, due to a positive support system from home. In a different study done by Jeffrey A. Ciagrang and others, soldiers were studied on symptoms in four categories: PTSD, depression levels, alcohol use, and relationship status. In each of the four categories, most participants were placed in the “few or no symptoms” category (“nondistressed” category for the relationship status study). Through this, a positive support system for a deployed soldier can dramatically change their mental health for the better.

While my dad was on his deployment, we sent him letters and packages each week. They would include little updates on our lives, printed pictures of what we were up to, goodie baskets, pictures we drew, and even mugs we painted for him one time. I remember one time, one of my letters were little words at a time of an encouraging quote that I made and made him piece it together. The puzzle message had said “You can do it Dad. Only 8 more months until you’re home. I can’t wait to hug you and eat donuts with you and mom and our family. I love you Dad! Sending all my love and smiles”. Even just a small note like that made all the difference for him. Each time he received a package from overseas, we called us as soon as there was a time we could FaceTime so we could watch him open the packages. The smile on his face each week was priceless. The way his eyes lit up showed us all that we did good for him.

Being away from home is a nightmare most children have. Having to live on your own, paying for yourself, and not being able to run into the comfort of your family’s arms when times are desperate. Now in college, being away from home is the reality and it can be really scary at times. Much like deployment, it is a very hard task we all have to endure, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it. With a good support system, we can turn the negative experiences of living away from home into a rewarding, positive experience.

I challenge each one of you to write some good. This can either be a sticky note you give a ward family member, write letters to another friend who’s gone for college, send a nice text to a roommate, or even give someone a compliment who’s walking by. Similar to what my family did to ease my dad’s burden for deployment, write or say a little something uplifting to someone you think needs it. Be the positive support system that someone needs away from home. Change the negative effects of “college deployment” to be positive.

Emily Miller

Omaha, Nebraska

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