Crystal’s First ‘official’ Deployment…Anchor’s Away

The summer of 2009 was over and the MEU (ship) deployment was coming fast and I had to do something!  I eventually got the opportunity to volunteer more and more for the Family Readiness Officer of Anthony’s unit. Keeping busy during the deployment was my coping method. Organizing things for and working with others helped me not focus every little stressor during Anthony’s absence that were not within my reach and that I couldn’t control.
Anthony’s unit was going to be part of a Battalion Landing Team or BLT. Not quite like a BLT sandwich but it is exactly as it sounds a big mess of all MOS’s (jobs) put together on several ships to tour the seas for different reasons.
There are several ships in a BLT/MEU situation & some had just sailed and one had to stay back for repairs.  We had been all ready for him to leave.  During departure & arrival times rumors fly & some of them were that they would be gone 12 months and not 6 and another was that the broken ship would not go at all.
I tried to avoid that nonsense & kept a level head & focused on simple things.  Thankfully he was on the broken ship so got additional time together!  We didn’t really know when he was going to have to go but we knew it was coming up fast.
Early one morning Anthony called me after being at work for an hour and said “we’re leaving”. I didn’t really know what to think and how serious to take him since that can mean anything from don’t plan for the BBQ this weekend to don’t make the lasagna tonight.  This time we a couple hours notice of this deployments departure. Right after he called the plan was for him to head home, pick up his gear and us to head back to his work and wait around while he prepared for the bus ride to the ship.
So this was it.  It was our big day and the big emotional roller coaster moment. This was my first time experience since I’d never been to a send off, deployment day, or anything. When I lived in Texas & he had deployed before we typically said goodbye at the airport and I’d go back to my normal or should I say (maybe not so normal) Geo-Bachelor life.  I didn’t know what to expect, how to feel, how not to feel, how to react, how NOT to react, ect. I knew it was going to be sad because of his absence and missing the upcoming holidays. I also knew that I was a semi-strong and independent person and he was just going on a ship for 6 months or so and that I shouldn’t be too overwhelmed or overemotional. I knew we’d have email, Skype, phone calls and mail so this should be a cake walk. Right?!
I may have had a false sense of self because I knew I’d have Stacie, Maggie & all the volunteer work to fall back on.  Thank goodness Maggie went through all of this with me and we both had each other to talk to, vent to, drink wine with and complain about the house falling apart because the men left. I believe the kids were able to cope better since Maggie’s kids and so many other military families kids were going through the same feelings at the same time all in our little military community bubble.
The unit held a send off at the UMA lot (basically a huge parking lot) filled with 7 tons, busses, Marines, family members, kids, dogs and friends not ready to say their goodbyes just yet. We waited for hours and hours while gear was loaded, signs were painted and coffee was brewed. People had started leaving, the tears were falling, and the last kisses for months had begun. I had helped set up, clean up as the evening wore on, painted signs and spoken to all my company wives I knew and tried to assure them they’d be getting the latest information from our FRO and command ASAP.
Anthony pulled me aside and told me that he felt it was time for me and the girls to go home. It was getting late, they were about to leave anyway and there was nothing more for me to do there. All of a sudden that was when the unexpected waterworks hit me.  I didn’t know why I was crying.  Didn’t I just say I was strong?  Damnit.  It really hurt to know that he wouldn’t be coming home with us, eating dinner with us, going to the movies with us and Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. I was sad, hurt, mad at the Marine Corps, and kind of scared. Scared for what? I thought maybe the bus wouldn’t make it, that he’d get hurt on the ship, that he’d not get along with his co-workers aboard the ship, that he’d get hurt on missions when he got overseas, he’d get sick again with pneumonia, swine flu again or bronchitis again. There were so many insecurities I had about the whole situation.

11th MEU

Now I know all of those last minute and unexpected emotions are normal. We’d prepared diligently for the deployment by preparing our families, organizing Wills, Powers of Attorney, passwords, ect.  Yet, I couldn’t control and secure was my husband’s safety and health. To make matters even more emotional the ship stayed docked overnight and I persuaded Maggie to come to the send off with me at a rally point for the unit.
With time though I eased up on my anxiousness thanks to Maggie, the FRO, my RBE (Remain Behind Element) co workers and friends because I think it would have turned into an obsession to know how he is, where he is, what he’s doing, what he’s not doing, ect.
All of these emotions were just the send off….oh goodness Help ME!

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