Family members combat challenges of separation

  • Published
  • By Tyler Hemstreet
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Airmen aren't the only ones who battle stress and loneliness during deployments.

Spouses and children at home go without a vital piece of the family structure when the deployed member is gone. Not having someone for four to six months to help with shopping, cleaning the house or helping care for children can put a certain amount of stress on a family.

For Staff Sgt. Tim Jones, 373rd Training Squadron, Detachment 12, and his wife, Renee, deployments have been a part of their married life for the last eight years.

But the last deployment the family went through was especially hard.

Sergeant Jones, then a member of the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was deployed to the Middle East in September 2006, just one month after his wife gave birth to the couple's third child.

"I told myself that despite the difficult circumstances of the deployment, I was going to go out there and be the best I could be," Sergeant Jones said.

Although Mrs. Jones said the deployments had progressively gotten easier to deal with over the years, she said this last one was particularly tough.

"After three and a half years of it, it started weighing on me," she said.

To help ease the burden of not having her husband around, Mrs. Jones traveled to California to be with family and have a steady support network.

"Having friends and family around helps occupy you so you don't have to think about it so much," Mrs. Jones said.

One of the biggest problems for spouses new to deployments, said Michelle Jost, president of the enlisted spouses club here, is that they don't reach out for support.

"They sometimes sit in their homes, and idle time gives them time for negativity," Mrs. Jost said.

The clubs for spouses on base do their best to provide fellowship for them, she said.

"We all don't have to be best friends, but sometimes it helps to be with some of the people in the same boat," said Mrs. Jost.

Results of a recent survey here show spouses are coping well with deployments. The 2006 Air Force Community Assessment ranked McChord in the top 25th percentile of Air Force bases in the ability of the base's spouses to cope with deployment, said Chaplain (Maj.) Bruce Marshall, 62nd Airlift Wing.

McChord spouses indicated that only 16 percent of them believe they would have trouble coping with the stress of deployment. In contrast, only 11 percent of active duty members would have trouble coping, according to the survey.

"That doesn't mean it would be easy, but they know they can cope with the stress," Chaplain Marshall said. "Those numbers are good given the high ops tempo we have here."

Some of chapel services' work includes hosting events such as Mothers of Preschoolers and deployed family member get-togethers at the chapel to help Airmen and their families meet and see what services they have available to them, Chaplain Marshall said.

The challenge lies, Chaplain Marshall said, when deployed members come back from their routine in the desert and go back into family mode.

"The tough part is integrating and how to rebalance all those household jobs that the spouse took care of while the member was away," he said.

While deployment can be hard on a family, it can also be a blessing in disguise for some, Mrs. Jost said.

"It can be a stressful time, but it can also be a time of growth," she said.

"For [spouses] to realize their own strength when it comes to taking care of the family and keeping everything in order, it can be a real satisfying thing."