Having a spouse deployed means shifting roles and changing responsibilities while maintaining a stable family life. Maintaining an emotional connection with the service member is a priority, as well as continuing on with your life. This segment will address communication during deployment, home and personal safety, recreation, and ideas for self-improvement.Communication During Deployments
Communications play a critical role when a service member is physically absent. Maintaining an emotional connection is essential in sustaining a relationship. Active communication also boosts morale for both the service member and those left at home. It is vital to make communication plans prior to the period of separation to avoid misunderstandings and to save on those unexpected long distance phone calls! Consider which of these methods might be best for your family.Letters
Letters are the most inexpensive way of communicating and can be the most satisfying. Letters can be reread over and over, especially during periods of loneliness. They are also fun to read years later! Letters can be long, detailed accounts of everyday activities or can be short and sweet "thinking of you" messages. Whatever the style, letters are much appreciated by both partners. It is imperative that you date each letter, as you may not receive letters in sequential order. Some couples number every letter that they send so the receiving partner knows which one to read first when he or she receives five letters in one day (mail service on and off ships is sometimes unpredictable!).E-Mail
Communicating via e-mail has become increasingly popular for geographically separated couples. However, the service member will need to check for system availability aboard ship or at his or her destination. If a computer and e-mail account are made available, this is an excellent way of communicating. This mode of communication is fairly fast and each partner can get "up-to-date" information. If time, planning, and capability exist the couple can create a private chat room and have an electronic conversation. If the spouse at home does not have a personal computer or Internet service, he or she can check at a nearby military installation or another family readiness agency which may offer e-mail access. If this is not convenient, he or she may check with their local library for Internet access and free e-mail accounts.Phone
Relying solely on telephonic communication can be extremely expensive. Many a spouse has gasped with disbelief when the phone bill arrives, so beware! However, hearing your loved one's voice every now and then is a luxury that many couples will budget for. Compare prices between a direct phone call and paying with a phone card. A pre-paid phone card is convenient and there are no surprise bills. Also, check with your long distance carrier for military overseas discounts. Most of the major phone companies offer such discounts. You will need to open this account prior to the separation. Consider using a MARS (Military Affiliated Radio System) station if one is conveniently located near you. The MARS operators are HAM radio owners who have volunteered to help bring military families together. They are patching the call from the ship and will be on the line with you. Calls are limited to 3 to 5 minutes. This service is free of charge.Care Packages
Care packages send a little piece of home to the service member. Things to include might be photographs, cookies, magazines, or a home video. Delivery usually takes 2 to 3 weeks but can take as long as 6 to 8 weeks so send early if you want it to arrive in time for a special occasion. You will need to follow postal regulations for packing and wrapping. Care packages are wonderful morale boosters during a deployment.Audio/Videotapes
Audiotapes are an excellent way to hear the voice of your loved one. You can give a long, detailed account of the day or week, or you can add a little bit each day. This will take prior planning, as you both will need a tape player/recorder. Videos are an excellent resource for loved ones to see where the service member is stationed or what the sea and ship look like. Likewise, the service member will enjoy seeing his or her family engaging in activities. Again, prior planning is essential. You may want to share resources with other families so both the service member and the family members have access to a recorder. Some units offer a taping session for families to be viewed by the service members aboard ship.Telegram
If speed is needed, a non-emergency message can be sent via Western Union. Messages are usually delivered within 36 hours. Just remember that many people will see this message so do not include private information.Home Safety and Crime Prevention.
Fear of crime and personal assault is not unusual or uncommon. Regardless of age or gender, the fear of crime is felt by everyone at sometime. However, service members who live alone or spouses married to deployed service members may tend to feel more fearful and have a heightened awareness of their surroundings. Particularly at the beginning of a deployment, the fear of crime may be more acutely felt by military spouses because they find themselves suddenly "alone".
Listed below are some ideas that will help reduce the risk of danger and if followed, will help ease the anxiety associated with living alone.Street Sense
Outside Your Home
- Familiarize yourself with unit, community, and local emergency reporting procedures. Keep these phone numbers next to the phone.
- If you live alone or your spouse is deployed, don't advertise it. This is not a message you want to send to others except for trusted friends and neighbors.
- Regardless of where you are, stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Appear calm and confident in your mannerism.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy about someone or a particular situation, remove yourself.
- Have your car keys or house keys ready prior to opening the door.
- Park in well lit lots. If you have to work late or are shopping at night, consider having a security guard walk you to your car. Do not display large amounts of money or other valuables.
- When shopping, keep your money secured in a billfold and your purse closed. Do not display large amounts of money or other valuables.
- If you think someone is following you, change direction and head toward a well-lit and well-populated surroundings.
- Tell children to never admit to being home alone on the telephone or to someone at the door.
- Teach children how to contact the police. Make sure they know their address and phone number, as well as a neighbors.
- Always lock your doors, even if you are only going out for just a few minutes. This includes garage and cellar doors as well.
Inside Your Home
- If you feel the need for an extra key to be available, do not leave one "hidden". It is much safer to leave the key with a trusted neighbor.
- Make sure all entrance doors can be securely locked. Consult with base housing or visit your local hardware store for proper appliances.
- Try "casing" your own home at night and during the day. Attempt to gain access when locked and secure. If YOU can get in, so can anyone!
- Good outdoor lighting is a deterrent to crime. Lighting should illuminate all potential entrances.
- Use only initials on mailboxes and in the telephone book.
- If there is not a way to identify a visitor, install a peephole. This is safer than partially opening a door with a chain lock.
- When returning home, be observant to any changes to the exterior. If anything looks unusual or suspicious, do not enter.
- If you receive an obscene phone call, hang up immediately. Don't engage. If you continue to receive calls, report them to the police or military security personnel, as well as the phone company.
- Make a list of all valuables that are in your home. Take a picture or videotape the items for your records. This will also assist you when you must relocate and discover missing items!
- If you are going out in the evening, leave a few lights on or leave the radio playing inside.
- Ask for identification from any repair person or base maintenance personnel.
- Dogs can provide excellent protection. Even small dogs can hear noises and provide an alarm.
- Teach children about emergency situations and how to call the police.
- Guns are responsible for many accidental deaths in the home. If you choose to own one, make sure they are safely stored, trigger locked, and unloaded. Ammunition should be stored separately. If you live on base, you generally have to register the gun with the military police.
- Check within your neighborhood or base housing quarters for a Neighborhood Watch organization. If one does not exist, contact the local police or military security personnel to help you start one.
Military installations offer a variety of recreational activities and opportunities both on and off base. Services offered will vary base to base dependent upon the population, geographic location, and local interest. Whether or not you live in close proximity to a military installation, you may be able to take advantage of discounted travel and tickets to popular tourist attractions. Certain eligibility restrictions may apply. The following activities are examples of what you might find at a military installation. Service members and their family members must have an ID card to participate.Gymnasiums and Field Houses
Gyms and field houses offer year around physical fitness programs for women and men. Many have professional weight-lifting rooms and workout equipment with physical trainers. Aerobics and other physical activity classes are offered. Some gyms have saunas, steam rooms, swimming pools, and courts for indoor sports. Some sites provide child-care.Intramural Sports
Most bases offer a variety of intramural sports for all ages.Swimming Pools
Some swimming pools are free while others charge a small fee.Sports Facilities
Bowling centers, golf courses, skating rinks, horse stables, and skeet ranges offer on-base recreation at a much reduced cost compared to similar commercial facilities.Youth Centers
Activities for children and adolescent ranging from loosely structured activities and games to tours, trips, and parties.Day Care
Child Development Centers and Family Home Care programs provide state-of-the-art day care for young children. Some centers offer referral services for your local community.Theaters
Latest movies are shown at a reduced fee (some base movies are free). Community thespians, bands, and chorale groups perform.Automotive Shops
Automotive shops are equipped for individuals to do their own repairs on their vehicles. Tools and equipment are generally provided.Craft Shops
Hobby shops specializing in woodworking, matting and framing, photography, electronics, ceramics, metal working, or other arts and crafts activities. Classes are generally offered.Ideas for Self-Improvement:Going Back to School
Returning to school can be a difficult decision. Whether you are interested in taking a class in a subject that has long interested you or whether you are seriously thinking about pursuing a college degree, many questions come to mind. One way to have all your concerns addressed is to contact the local colleges, universities and adult education programs in your area. Professionals at these schools can help you make some informed decisions of what educational opportunities will work best for you. If you live near a base, check with their continuing education program. Here are some of the more common questions.
How Can I Afford to Go to School?
There are many resources available to assist you in locating financial resources. Nearly half of the student population, traditional or non-traditional, receive some sort of financial assistance in the form of grants, aid, scholarships, or loans. Nearly every educational institution has a financial aid advisor that can assist you in calculating the costs associated with attending college. In addition, there are many scholarships available specifically for family members of the active duty and reserve force. The American Legion publishes "Need a Lift?" It is a complete listing of other possible sources of financial aid. You may reach them at The American Legion, National Emblem Sales, P.O. Box 1050, Indianapolis, IN 46206 for more information.How Can I Attend School AND Work?
Most large universities and community colleges offer flexibility in their curriculum. You can attend as a part-time student and/or enroll in a non-traditional evening program. Many colleges offer 5-7 year programs.What About My Children?
Childcare is often considered a financial necessity when calculating and applying for financial assistance. Additionally, many schools sponsor their own child care program through the student body or through their early childhood development department at reduced fees.
What if I Don't Live Near a College Campus?
Many colleges offer distant learning programs via the Internet. Many offer correspondence courses and allow another official to proctor examinations. Additionally, many colleges offer classes off-site at the local high school or library.Will I Fit in with the Other Students?
Absolutely! Currently, one third of college students are considered "non traditional". This population includes those who are older than 25 and who have never been to college, are returning to college, or are mid-life career changers.
Do I Have to Decide My Major Now?
No. Sometimes it is best to wait while you explore possible career choices. However, you can take your core classes necessary for graduation while you explore potential curriculums. Most colleges offer academic advising and career counseling and testing.
What If I'm Not Interested in Pursuing a Degree?
That is fine. You may want to take a class "just for fun" in a subject or activity that you are interested in. You may be able to audit an academic class (sit in on lectures and activities but do not receive a grade). Additionally, most community colleges offer certificates in subjects such as bookkeeping, information management, or areas within the medical field. Check with your local campus to find out what is available in your area.Will I Have Time to Finish Before We Move?
That depends! First of all, don't let the idea of moving prevent you from considering completing an education. Many universities offer credit earning alternatives (credit by examination, credit for life experience, credit for prior learning, and retroactive credit) which will reduce the amount of time necessary to complete a degree. Plus, there are colleges that specifically cater to the military community and have extensions at many military bases.Volunteer Work
Volunteering is a "win-win" situation. The volunteer can learn new skills and feel increased personal worthwhile contributing to a need in the community. Becoming a volunteer is more than giving up a few hours out of your day. It may be a way to make job contacts, learn a new skill, make new friends, or help those less fortunate than yourself. If you are trying to enter the job market, begin your job search as a volunteer. If your spouse is at sea or on a long drill, volunteering is a great way to make it through long evenings and weekends at home.
You don't get paid when you work as a volunteer; however, when you contribute your knowledge and energy, you get something in return that is just as gratifying - personal satisfaction. Many employers today consider volunteer experience when evaluating a resume. Editing newsletters, chairing committees, and working in clerical roles are marketable skills that may help you obtain a for-pay job in the future.
Popular places for volunteer work include schools, hospitals, libraries, retirement and nursing homes, and local non-profit organizations. If you live near a base, you may want to consider the American Red Cross or the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. Many agencies will reimburse child care expenses for a few hours a week.