Every year, October 26 is the National Day of the Deployed. This is a day set aside to honor all our service men and women deployed around the globe. Whether they are involved in combat missions or peacekeeping assignments, service members work hard during deployment and deserve recognition for their many sacrifices.
During deployments, the service members aren’t the only ones who make sacrifices. Behind most deployed troops are family members who stay behind and support them: parents, spouses, siblings, girlfriends, boyfriends and children. Military loved ones often shoulder extra responsibilities and take care of day-to-day tasks on their own throughout the deployment.
If you are not able to honor a service member on the Day of the Deployed, you can certainly make a kind gesture to a military spouse or family member going through deployment on the homefront. While military spouses often smile and put on a brave face during deployment, the reality is that it becomes a difficult challenge to face each day. Every kind gesture makes the burden a little lighter.
Six Great Ways to Support a MilSpouse During Deployment:
- Offer to help: Everyone always says, “let me know if you need anything,” but the reality is that military families often feel so overwhelmed by the multitude of responsibilities during deployment that they don’t know HOW to ask for help. Juggling work duties, raising children, and taking care of a house and pets can become an endless struggle. When they finally do make a request, many military spouses feel defeated when they are told no, or that it isn’t a convenient time. The most effective way to help is by making a specific offer. Choose a responsibility you are comfortable with, and just tell them you are going to do it. “Can I come mow the lawn each Saturday? Would it help if I took the kids to school one morning per week? I’m going to the grocery store today—what can I grab for you?” These are all convenient offers that lighten someone’s burden during deployment and are easy to accept.
- Send a meal: If you live far from a military family, you may not feel able to offer much support during deployment. But mealtime is always a challenge, and any meal a spouse doesn’t have to cook is a huge blessing! Consider sending gift cards for a company that delivers meals, so they can place an order without the guilt. Or go ahead and tell them you are ordering them pizza on a Friday night. You could also set them up with a meal delivery service that delivers healthy meals. If someone has a baby or goes through surgery during deployment, set up a meal train website so their local friends and neighbors can take turns bringing them meals.
- Write an encouraging note: Every military spouse could use a few encouraging words to help them through difficult deployment days. Handwritten notes in the mail are a rare and beautiful gift that will help lift someone’s spirits. Don’t have time for a handwritten note? Send a text, email or Facebook message to let them know you are thinking of them and their service member, and that you admire them for their strength or sacrifices.
- Lend a hand: It seems that everything breaks when the service member leaves for deployment, so military households often suffer from broken appliances, costly repairs or car trouble. If you have any handy skills, ask a military family if they need any help around the house. There is a good chance there is a two-person job the spouse has been putting off because they aren’t able to do it alone. An extra toolbox and set of hands can make a huge difference to someone struggling through deployment!
- Let them vent: Sometimes military loved ones just need someone to talk to — someone who will offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. You don’t need to have military experience yourself to be a patient listener. You don’t have to know the right thing to say or give expert advice. Just listen without judging. Don’t tell them “this is what they signed up for,” or “it will be over before you know it.” Just acknowledge that they are going through a difficult challenge and they are being tested. Then compliment them on one thing they are doing well, like their strength, their patience, their hard work or their creativity with the kids. Those kind words will mean so much.
- Send a care package: Want to make a military family smile during deployment? Everyone loves getting surprises in the mail! Whether you send a birthday gift, a homemade treat, gift cards for a massage or a commercial gift basket, sending a care package is a great way to let someone know you are thinking of them. It will help them feel supported as they face the rest of the deployment.
However you decide to support a military spouse during deployment, know that your kindness will always be appreciated. When you encourage a military spouse, you are helping to support their deployed service member too, by giving them the reassurance that their loved ones are taken care of back home.