Lessons Learned from a Son’s First Deployment

Dorie Griggs inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping. PHOTO CREDIT: Stanley Leary

Dorie Griggs inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping.
PHOTO CREDIT: Stanley Leary

By Dorie Griggs

My son’s battalion will return home soon. I’ve looked through my photos and notes about the year.

During that time I have mailed over 443 pounds of needed items to both my son, his platoon, and the battalion. That number includes a Christmas mailing providing gift bags for each member of the platoon, a large shipment of items to the battalion headquarters of underwear and socks, as well as Easter, birthday and regular care packages.

Putting these mailings together was a community effort. It helped me pass the time by providing helpful items to our soldiers. Many of my friends sent their own boxes. I know my son and his soldiers appreciated their gifts.

In addition to reviewing the notes and photos of mailings, I’ve been reflecting on all that I have learned this year. I’ll list these in no particular order:

  • While many people in our community are clueless about what it is like to have a love one deploy, so many others are extremely supportive.
  • The unexpected ring of the door bell can make your thoughts race and your heart pound.
  • Missing a Skype call really stinks.
  • Corresponding via cell phone to a deployed soldier in Afghanistan is amazing.
  • My friends and many other who read my blog are some of the most supportive and generous people ever!
  • The battalion commander of my son’s battalion is a very caring person.
  • The Family Readiness Groups are very supportive. Be sure your soldier lists you as an approved contact so you can get the updates.
  • There is no way to fully prepare for a child’s deployment.
  • The pain you feel for a fallen soldiers family is real, but can’t come close to the pain they must feel.
  • Helping to support deployed soldiers by sending packages and notes of support is a great way to deal with my own anxiety about deployment.
  • The various Facebook groups for parents/family of deployed soldiers are a good resource, but some have too much drama.
  • Be careful with who you friend on Facebook.
  • Do not post any information to Facebook that could endanger our deployed soldiers. Cyber stalking does happen.
  • The extended Army family is amazing.
The three goody bags went into a zip lock bag with a note from the children and a card from us.

The three goody bags went into a zip lock bag with a note from the children and a card from us.

Some of our deployed troops do not get mail from home. Send extra so your soldier can share. Don’t judge the families. It is expensive to mail boxes, not everyone can afford to send things.

Never under-estimate the joy a roll of soft toilet paper can bring to a deployed soldier.

The single soldiers return to the US without a lot of support. Support the rear detachment office with your donations for welcome home items for the barracks.

The company, Covert Threads, offer great socks at a good price.

Take items out of their original box and put them into zip lock bags. The soldiers have to burn their trash and the bags can be used to keep dust off of other items.

Quite a few companies offer free shipping to APO addresses. Just Google “free shipping to APO” for a list of companies/organizations.

Cigars are appreciated. Island Smoke Shop is a great resource. A Combat Humidor makes a great gift too.

When people ask what they can do to support you and your soldier, keep a list of needed/wanted items handy. Ask people to help supply them.

JROTC Awards night my son's junior year in high school. LTC Linda Colar was the teacher who taught me about the Army.

JROTC Awards night my son’s junior year in high school. LTC Linda Colar was the teacher who taught me about the Army.

The people at the local Post Office like to hear how my son is doing.

Many of our soldiers can’t send mail or communicate their thanks, but they are very grateful for our support.

A call, Facebook message, or a photo can make your whole week.

Clean underwear and socks are always appreciated.

Blue Star Mothers, Blue Star Families can be a great support network to plug into.

Memories in Stitches will make a Gold Star banner for a fallen soldier’s family. She also makes Blue Star quilts.

You can find Blue Star pins and flags at a reasonable price online.

As hard as it may be, read up on the potential effects of war on the soldiers and the ones who love them.

You can read more from Dorie Griggs on her experience as an Army mom on her blog Dorie Griggs.

She started sharing her journey with Off the Base readers almost three years ago. Her first story was: The Making of a Military Mom.

13 Responses

  1. Humanity and love, a love of a mother,are the essences of this words and the preoccupation for security of son and all sons, for all soldiers is expressed like only a mother can and know. i thanks her for lesson she has done, for all secret manners to aid she has indicate and to whom we not ever thinks. By her we have the indication of how love is not separate by security but is, on the contrary, one of his essence. Thanks again claudio alpaca

  2. Thank you, Claudio!

  3. […] on the other hand shared the lessons she learned during her son’s […]

  4. My son deploys very soon. He is home on pre-deployment leave and I am having such a hard time. He is very anxious and I am trying to stay calm and not be emotional to help him with his anxiety. He will be leaving me and his 4 siblings here,and it is so hard. Harder than I ever imagined when I signed him into the Army after graduation from High School. He has been in almost three years and was asked to extend for deployment. He did extend, and I have mixed feelings about that. I am so afraid for him and his guys. How do I do this??? How do you all do this???? I knew he would probably get deployed and I thought I would be ok with it. I am, but I am not. I support all of our troops and I now know what an Army mom really feels like. Boot camp and being stationed so far from home was hard. Knowing about the hard training he had to go through was tough. His stress fracture in his hip from long and difficult ruck marches was also tough and worrisome. But, I figured it was all part of being in the Army. I worried, but I was ok. Now that deployment is imminent, I am not so ok. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks to all the servicemen and women who put their lives on the line for our freedom every single day. And thanks to the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives who endure the waiting and praying for their loved ones to come home safely and out of harms way, God bless you all.

  5. My son is set to deploy in two weeks. He is married and has two children. His wife is his first priority and I support that wholeheartedly but is there a way for me to keep up with what is going on? Can I still be on his Family List to receive updates? I don’t want to ask him or his wife because they are already under enough stress.

    • Dear Ann,
      Working on finding you an answer. I’ve posted your query to today’s blog entry: https://offthebase.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/have-a-heart-help-a-mom-with-a-son-soon-to-deploy/ and I will reach out to Dorie.
      Happy Valentine’s Day to a Mother who is all heart.
      Bobbie O’Brien

    • Hello, Bobbie:
      Our Son deployed Sept. 2015 for a 1 yr. deployment. He married his Bride Jan. 3, 2015 & by the time he left, their Son was 4 months old. July 2016 rolls around and an amazing opportunity arises for our Son which lengthens his deployment another 9 months. Luckily, he was able to take a 21-day Leave to spend time with his family, albeit a Very SHORT visit as with travel time between the US & the other side of the world left him with 19 days to squeeze in as much family time and events as possible. During his Leave, my husband and I only had 3 days with him and, after our return, I felt more disconnected than ever before and couldn’t understand how that was possible…until I realized, this was the 1st time I had been away from my Son’s presence for 369 whole days since I was last able to hug him, sit next to him, break bread with him, hear his whistling and that intoxicating laugh in person. Of course, I didn’t want to share these feelings with him or his wife, not wanting to add to their stress levels…figuring they have enough to deal with as a separated family unit without worrying about my needs. I opened up to our Daughter when she asked me what was going on with me, I just wasn’t myself…and my 24 y.o. Cherub told me that I Absolutely should tell them how how I feel and ask questions, otherwise they’ll never know and won’t share thinking they may burden or worry me unnecessarily. That the lines of communication must remain open during deployment simply because Wife is Step 1 for Intel, Parents are Step 2. Being a parent, let alone a MOM…of a married military child…is pretty strange when we are no longer 1st in line.
      So, my words of wisdom probably aren’t wise at all but more to the concept that as MOM, we ARE supremely important to our deployed children which is why they WILL fit in as many Skype or Face Time sessions as possible. Also, I have learned asking, “how is”, “how are”, “what’s up lately” questions of my Daughter-in-law has brought us closer than I certainly thought possible because she is not one to open up much, she keeps a lot in and by me asking…she is able to relieve some stresses she may not have realized she had…and then it’s a Win-win for us all: I get to know what’s going on, how things are progressing so I can keep family & friends here updated (DIL and Grandson AND soon-to-be Grandson #2 are 2,800 miles away from us)…she gets to be the important mouthpiece to provide the very-much needed information and also helps her talk about things that we all know she wouldn’t, otherwise.
      So, my Military Mom Friend, please DO ask, keep asking questions because the more you all are on the same page with what’s going on in each other’s lives during deployment, the better everyone feels and the closer everyone grows which, I have learned, helps ease the stress from our Son..as he shared how happy his heart is knowing that we are super close with his Wife by constantly staying in touch.
      ~With Much Love & Prayers of Strength,

      • Beth,
        Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom. It helps to know there are other military moms out there. Several have written for Off the Base. I encourage you to contribute if you would like. Please email me at bobrien@wusf.org. And thank you for your service because we all know that it isn’t just the deployed service member – instead – it’s the whole family that serves, moms, dads, siblings, wives, husbands, children, uncles, aunts and even grandparents like me.
        Bobbie O’Brien

  6. […] entry, written in July 2013, has received a lot of traffic: Lessons Learned from a Son’s First Deployment. And that’s where I found this comment and plea for help from today, Feb. 14, […]

  7. Ann – My son was not married. He had to add me to the Family Readiness Group to receive information during deployment. Some units also have Facebook pages for family to follow them. From my experience your son would have to tell you about these methods of being in touch. You can call the Family Readiness Group but they can’t tell you much without your son giving them permission to talk to you.

    I also joined a Facebook group called Parents of Deployed Service Members. It is only for parents and they are a great support group.

    Best wishes to you and your son.

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