With 185 local soldiers being deployed last week from the 109th Field Artillery, military wife and author Tiffany Cloud Olson knows the drill all too well.
The crying. The anxiety. The depression. The waiting.
Cloud Olson, 43, of Conyngham, is the author of “Sleeping with Dog Tags,” a book about her personal experiences as the wife of an U.S. Army staff sergeant who has been deployed several times and is now recovering from injuries suffered while in Afghanistan.
Her husband, Erik, was stationed near Pakistan and was injured when a rocket landed at his outpost and exploded, piercing him with shrapnel and pushing him onto a razor wire perimeter fence.
As a family member, Cloud Olson said, you worry on a daily basis for a soldier’s life and safety.
Some cope better than others, checking the daily casualty report, watching the news and trying to control the situation.
Others distance themselves, trying to stay as busy as possible to distract their mind from returning to thoughts of their loved one.
“Usually, what happens are a lot of sleepless nights for the military family. Whether they are in combat or not,” Cloud Olson said.
The hardest part about deployment, she said, is being able to communicate only when the soldier has the time.
“You can’t just call them,” Cloud Olson said. “Communication is on the soldier’s timetable when they are able to call, email or Skype.”
Families need to learn how to get through the day without their support mechanism in place, raising kids, taking them to school, doing homework and running a household.
In her case, Cloud Olson said she and her husband spent time with their two children as much as possible, taking pictures as often as possible and leaving nothing important unsaid.
The couple got their finances in order – just in case – and Cloud Olson wrote in a journal every day so that her husband could take it with him and read it.
When soldiers return from a tour of duty, Cloud Olson said, some may choose not to be around people to “come down” after their deployment.
Others, she said, are receptive to welcome home parties and visitors.
Cloud Olson said her husband chose not to immerse himself in crowds until he had a chance to settle in at home.
“He had some quiet time so that he wasn’t scanning the crowd, looking for (improvised explosive devices) or snipers,” she said.
Cloud Olson suggests family members have patience and understanding when deploying and welcoming home soldiers.
“You have to get used to each other again,” Cloud Olson said. “Perhaps they’ve seen things they didn’t want to see or didn’t expect to see. Reconnection can and does occur.”
Cloud Olson said families need to be on the lookout to make sure their soldier is coping well after returning home and any difficulties should be dealt with quickly.
While they are overseas, sending care packages, exchanging wedding rings and carrying pictures all help.
“They need as much support from home as possible,” Cloud Olson said.