About Me

Fort Bragg, NC, United States
I'm a stay at home dad raising four beautiful children. I am the proud spouse of an Army Lieutenant Colonel. I do my best to keep up with the kids and all of their activities. I enjoy playing the bass and the occasional bass guitar building project. You can follow me on twitter if you so desire...@ArmySpouse007.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Redeployment and Reintegration Part 4: To travel or not to travel...

One of the great questions that comes up when a service member comes home from a deployment is whether or not the family will embark on a family vacation soon after the reunion. Obviously, the first week they are back is out because they are usually going through redeployment stuff like medical checks and safety briefs while working half days. Typically, though, after that first week, block leave begins and they are home for up to a month while they rest, recover, and reintegrate with their family. So, inevitably, the question arrises...should you go somewhere for a vacation?

Now, before I dig any deeper, I will say that many if not most families do pack up and go somewhere. Generally speaking, most Army folks come home some time in the Summer. Obviously, there are exceptions, but for the most part, the Summer is the big deployment/redeployment time. So the service member comes home, the kids are out of school, and he/she has up to a month off from work. What better time, right?

Well, I'm not so sure that is a great idea, to be honest. (Full disclosure... I'm writing this from Savannah. We're here, though, not as a vacation trip, but to bring back my truck and our swing set.) When you think about it, the rules of the house for the last year have changed and involved in many ways. Our service member spouses have no idea how we've been doing things. This is especially true if you've moved during the deployment. New house, new routines, new rules. There are tons to things that have changed. And now, they are back home, trying to learn all of these new rules, routines, and trying to adjust to all of the changes.

So the question that has to be asked, then, is this: is traveling actually a good idea? I'm not so sure. In fact, when we were getting close to my wife's return home, she asked me if we all wanted to go somewhere during block leave. After thinking about it, I said no. I wanted our reintegration to be as complete and total as possible and I just didn't think that could be the case if we weren't home. See, you can't get used to being around each other at home if you aren't at home. Seems simple enough, but the truth is few people actually take this into consideration. I believe you need be home in your normal environment to be immersed in the reintegration process. Staying in a hotel, driving across the country, playing in a theme park might be fun, but they don't help you deal with the issues of being at home and trying to find that equilibrium that's been gone for a year. In fact, I think it actually delays the reintegration process. You're going to have to come to grips with the issues that will arise and face the inevitable problems that will come with learning to live together again. I simply don't believe that can be done in an environment outside of the home. What's even more interesting about this "dilemma" is that it is the opposite of R & R. Going somewhere for a vacation during R & R is actually a good idea because you want that time to be free from arguments and blatant recognition of change. It should be a time of rest and relaxation for both of you. And because the deployment isn't over and the reunion is short, getting away from the routines and changes is a good idea. Reintegration is all about dealing with those changes and routines.

Many Army marriages end in divorce NOT during the deployment, but in the days after the service member has returned home. While, at first glance, this seems counterintuitive, a closer look shows how this is really the danger zone. The first days of the reunion are joyous bliss. But in the days and weeks that follow, the changes that have taken place over the last year finally begin to surface and both realize that the person they left behind a year ago isn't exactly the same person standing in front of them. And while traveling is fun and relaxing, it actually is putting off the task at hand, which is learning to live with this different person. Many marriages simply can't withstand the onslaught of changes. Other times there simply isn't enough understanding during reintegration. Some simply believe that everything will be back as it was before, and this is never the case.

When my wife got home I made a decision. I informed her that, with the exception of a quick trip to Savannah to get the swing set and my truck, there would be no trips and no visitors for 3 months. Someone once told me many years ago that reintegration generally takes about one week for every month they are gone. For us, that means 12 weeks or 3 months. I told her that we would use that time exclusively to work on our marriage, to strengthen it and form an even stronger bond than before. I believe that you can't underestimate the importance of reintegration. As I've said in earlier blogs, it is a no joke process. For us, trips and family visits can wait. Our marriage can't. Nothing is more important.

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  1. Wow, great advice on the three months. Love it!!

  2. Tim you hit the nail on the head with this one and I am so glad to see you and Devon taking the right stance on this issue. Deployments put strain and stress on our families, and reintegration is a whole new level of stress - one most folks aren't expecting.

    We're given a month to work through it from the Army (in many cases), so why blow that opportunity? The two of you came together as one when you were married, this time of reintegration is your opportunity to find that again in your marriage. You, Devon, and the kids will benefit so much from the position you guys have chosen to take.

    God bless you guys and good luck!

  3. well said Tim! There is something to be said for 'getting away from it all' but you are still putting aside the inevitable task of figuring out how to live together again... with new and old issues. We did take a trip this last time... and although we enjoyed it, it almost made the trip sour at times because we knew what we were facing on the flip side. It was Rome though... and Tuscany... with wine... so it didn't sour THAT much! Ha! miss ya friend!

  4. Hey Tim,
    I'm trying to find your email and cannot for the life of me find it. I would like to invite you to come share your perspective on our talk radio show - I know don't kill me yet - Army Wife Talk Radio. I LOVE your blog and I would love to see a bigger voice for Army husbands in our midst!! Would you be interested in sharing your experiences on your journey with our listeners? Shoot me an email tara@armywifenetwork.com. :) Wouldn't it be cool to have a ArmyHusbandNetwork? :)

  5. Wow! I've actually never thought of that before. It makes total sense though! Thanks for sharing!