By OSD Communications Specialist Bailey Patton Brackin

Deployments are a stressful time for military families. Having your loved one in harm’s way a world away is difficult, to say the least. Birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries are missed, communication is limited or even nonexistent at times, and feelings of loneliness are the norm.

Not only is it emotionally taxing to be disconnected from your loved one for such a long period of time, but the family also has to navigate life without their military member. All of the things that deployed member was responsible for are now left to the family to take care of.

If you have never been through a deployment, it can be hard to know how to help. You might worry about overstepping or being intrusive. But military families need a strong support system to survive deployments, and there are a few simple things you can do that will make a big difference.

  1. Give the spouse a break. Offer to babysit for a few hours so they can go to the grocery store, get some work done around the house, or just have some time to themselves. Pick the kids up from school or offer to take them to soccer practice. Most military families don’t have the luxury of having their extended family close, so childcare options are limited. Having someone they can trust offer to help out with their kids is a big deal.
  2. Bring a meal. This is one less meal that the spouse has to think about or prepare. It can free up some time in their day and help them avoid ordering pizza for the 4th time in a week.
  3. Help with house, car, or other basic maintenance. Offer to mow the lawn, shovel snow, or change the oil in the car.  It is common knowledge among military spouses that as soon as their spouse deploys, everything breaks. And with their military member gone, all of those small maintenance items are left up to them. It is a huge relief to have someone step in and take care of it. But remember, many spouses won’t come out and ask for help. So if you notice a need, speak up and offer to help! Often a blanket “let me know if you need help” will go unused. Try offering to do something specific.
  4. Check in often. Ask how the family is doing. Allow them to share as much or as little as they would like. Deployments are lonely. Knowing they have someone they can talk to and share with helps to combat feelings of isolation. This will also give you great insight into other ways the family could use some help or support.