Is Deployment A Badge of Honor?

You knew this was coming. No self-respecting military spouse blogger would omit deployment, the granddaddy of all military life topics. Dun, Dun, Duuuun!!! (dramatic sound effect)

After all, for military spouses, isn’t deployment where the majority of our badges of honor are hard-won?

I say yes and no.

I realize deployment lengths can vary greatly, but for practical purposes, I’m going to go ahead and liken the deployment period to a pregnancy, something else many of us are familiar  with:

9 months, closer to 10.

A sudden announcement and a shift toward planning for the change in family dynamics.

A rocky first trimester.

Emotional outbursts and irritations eased by the distraction of impulse shopping and overeating cookie dough ice cream and Trader Joe’s Baked Cheese Crunchies (or so I’ve heard).

Wondering how in the heck women have been doing this for hundreds of years and why didn’t anyone tell the truth about this experience.

Eager anticipation with the end in sight, while days drag and time appears to stand still.

The end-date is anyone’s guess, but when it comes, will be a day to celebrate.

Amnesia is developed towards any adversity from the past 9 months.

Now, this is most definitely a simplification of both pregnancy and deployment and yet, the similarities cannot be denied. At least in my experience.

On that note, I’m announcing a 9-month deployment series here on the blog which will run once a month, highlighting a key component to surviving the dreaded D-word. Spoiler alert: It will suck but you will learn and grow and if you look for daily miracles that help you survive, you will find them.

Back to the pregnancy analogy. You know those women who have only delivered babies via Caesarean and in vulnerable moments, confide to you that they wish they knew what it was like to deliver a baby without having had a C-section? Like they are somehow less of a mother because they lack that experience which they view as a rite of passage to motherhood?

And all the mothers who have endured excruciating labor pains resulting in vaginal births are like, “Heck, no! You’re not missing anything!”

I’ve had both, so I land in both camps and am the first to acknowledge that it doesn’t matter how you get there, a mother is a mother. Period.

And yet.

In a weird, twisted way, I felt the same way about deployment.

Clint had deployed early in our marriage but our oldest child was 11 the first time he had to say “see you later” to his dad at the airport. Our family unit had not been tested by deployment and while I dreaded it, a part of me felt like it was a rite of passage:

“OK, now I’ll be a REAL military wife, strong and brave!”

Just like those delusional mothers who feel less than because of their C-sections.

Well, it wasn’t pretty by a long shot, but we got through it.

And you know what I learned? That I was just as much a military wife before the deployment as after. And so are you. Sure, the separation was awful, but it was just part of this whole military life we’ve been living for years. Deployment aside, you are undoubtedly putting up with crazy schedules, laundering uniforms, and living who knows where and that’s enough to qualify you as a key player in this milspouse game.

Maybe you’ve never endured deployment and are wondering what all the fuss is about.

Maybe you’re on your 5th separation and it hasn’t gotten any easier.

Guess what? We’re all in the same boat and comparing and judgement sure won’t get us anywhere.

I spent 8 years as an enlisted submariner’s wife and have been a naval officer’s wife for 9 (same incredible husband) and so I’ve had different perspectives throughout my time as a military spouse. One thing holds true: It doesn’t matter how you got here or how many deployments you’ve been through; this gig is unique and we all need support.

Can’t Buy Me Love was on TV the other night and it’s still one of my all-time favorites. Classic quotes abound, but Ronald’s speech at the lunch tables is worth highlighting in this space:

“Cools, nerds, jocks. My side, your side. Man, it’s all bull**it. It’s just tough enough to be yourself!”

Seriously. Enlisted spouse. Officer’s spouse. First deployment. Fifth deployment. Doesn’t matter. Let’s get real and admit we need each other.

In this series, I’ll be tackling with brutal honesty deployment topics including technology, meal plans, anxiety, friendship, Family Separation Allowance aka Fundamental Sanity Allowance, motherhood, resilience, the darkest days and daily miracles.

If I could sit with you, face to face, these are the stories I would tell you while you told me yours. Stories of courage and hardship and broken appliances. Tales of ingenuity, loneliness and cereal dinners for nights on end. Stories that can’t possibly be reduced to a single blog post, so I’m stretching it to 9, maybe 10. Pull up a chair and stick around; I hope you see yourself in my stories and are reassured that you’re absolutely, positively, not alone.




  1. richard larsen on July 13, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Looking forward to the next installment. Great stuff Kara!

    • Kara Ludlow on July 13, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      Hi Rit! Thank you 🙂

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