Military Families: “You Are the Expert” Writing Contest

And the winners are … Here are the top entries from the first Military “You Are the Expert Writing Contest”:

First Place: Staying Connected During Deployment

By Erin from Deployment Diatribes

… There are lots of ways to help your kids and spouse stay connected. In our family, before my husband left, he bought several Lego mini-figures and let each son select one to represent himself. Then, my husband took the mini-figures with him on deployment. He attached them to magnets and they attach to his bunk. He takes them with him sometimes and takes their picture at various spots, like this:

The Lego mini-figures a deployed dad uses to stay connected to his children.

Seeing their mini-figures in pictures from around the world really helps the boys feel close to their dad while he is deployed. I print out pictures for the boys and they hang them by their beds, take them into school to share in their classes, and carry them around the house.

Second Place: An American in Japan

By Wife on the Roller Coaster

… Other than having to apologize for our large furniture, the move was painless. I learned in my 2-week indoctrination class that tipping is considered an insult in Japan. But I also learned through word of mouth that the Japanese will never take offense when offered a gift of American pizza and beer. After accepting my on-base food court offerings with a bow, they piled into their now barren truck and drove away, leaving me alone in this newly Americanized Japanese home.

Third Place: A Different Kind of Family

By Ashley S. Brantley

… Being a military wife is an all the time occupation.

It’s only with another wife that I can talk about the fact that my husband wants to go to war and that I also want it for him. Civilians don’t understand that need that they have to go down range with their guys. They also have a hard time understanding how quickly you are able to bond with those around you.

You can read the full essays of each winner at “You Are the Expert Writing Contest” and also find other submissions.

Deployment’s Emotional Cycles: Stage 1 for an Army Wife


Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins,

Anticipation of Departure for the service member and spouse is different from what I experience as a military mom.  The first stage of the emotional cycle of deployment is a very busy time for the soldier and his or her family and brings mixed emotions.

The service member is away from home frequently due to extensive training and preparation which touts the reality of the looming separation for the whole family.  The bond between unit members grows immensely as they are completely focused on the impending mission.  In addition to preparing for the work side of deployments, there are many personal items that need tended to: wills and power of attorneys, house and auto repairs, decisions and arrangements about where spouse will spend the deployment, final visits with family, medical and dental visits–these are just a few.  This stage can be stressful for the soldier as he juggles the final preparations for work and home while trying to spend quality time with family.

My daughter-in-law, Alison, shared her thoughts and experiences with this stage:

Josh and Alison during pre-deployment photos. Photo by Carolyn Cummins,

“The anxiety prior to deployment is overwhelming because I feel such pressure to make the most of every moment I have left with Josh while I’m constantly fighting emotions for the loss I am about to experience when I have to say good-bye.  Josh and I created a wish list (similar to a bucket list) of things to do before he deployed and we accomplished everything.  We truly lived like we were dying and savored every outing and relaxing moment together.  I treasure the dinners, movies, walks, fishing trips, hugs, and we had intimate conversations that we struggle with during deployments.  We learned a lot about each other and our relationship as husband and wife during the month prior to his leaving.   

Our fun trip prior to deployment was a hog hunting excursion in Oklahoma which Josh picked.  It was both satisfying and sad; I know how much he enjoyed it, but the reality is he wanted the experience in case he doesn’t get another chance.  

We have professional photos done prior to every deployment; it is very important to me to have fresh photos to treasure if they are the last ones of us together.  This may sound morbid but I never know when such opportunities are the last.”

I commend Alison for her strength and willingness to share her innermost feelings.  She is a loving and supportive wife to my son and an amazing example and mentor to other Army wives.

Josh and Alison on their hog-hunting trip prior to his third deployment.


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