I'll have to add pics to this post later. The morning of Rafe's deployment was not too sad, to be honest. It was kind of a surreal feeling. We had a leisurely breakfast, gathered the luggage and headed to the loading area.
This was the first time Rafe has left with a ground unit instead of a squadron, so it was all very different and new to me. In the past, we just kissed goodbye in the parking lot, and they went through the secured fences and gates to the squadrons where we were not allowed to go. It was sort of anti-climatic because they still had a few hours of work to do before they actually left. So we would get into our cars and drive away, knowing they were behind the walls somewhere. The first time Rafe deployed, I went to the beach with some friends of mine to watch him fly past in his Cobra with the rest of the guys as they headed out to the ship we could see on the distant horizon. I was VERY PREGNANT and the heat got to me quickly.
This time, I was just a tiny bit pregnant, and the heat still got to me very quickly. I felt sick to my stomach all morning and really just wanted a nice big taco. The guys had to drop their gear in a big clearing and they were able to stand around with their families while the gear was gathered and loaded onto the big semi trucks that were waiting next to the open grass. It was very odd to see clumps of Marines and their families. The younger kids were playing; some of the parents, wives and girlfriends were crying; it was hot and humid.
The Marines had an air of anticipation and excitement about them, along with sadness. They train for so hard and for so long for this... it's an interesting mental switch that they make when it comes time for them to do the work they were trained to do. It's fascinating to watch. Rafe speaks differently, walks differently, seems tougher and somehow foreign to me. It's like watching a person transform into a superhero right before your very eyes. He even looks taller!!
They had a few tables and tents set up with drinks and some snacks for the families, which I thought was nice. I saw little kids with their daddy dolls (http://www.hugahero.com/); some slightly older trying to "help" daddy move his gear; and I even overheard one child ask his daddy if he could come with him. It's hard for everyone to say goodbye, especially knowing how dangerous this particular mission is, and how long it will last.
The important thing to remember on a deployment is this: How the Mom goes is how the whole family will go. By this I mean - if the remaining parent is freaked out, stressed out, anxious, crying, upset, and worried constantly... her children will be also. And because the family is freaking out, then the Marine will become stressed out. If the Marine is stressed out, it effects the unit. It is imperative to the physical safety and the mental health of everyone that the Mom pulls herself together and puts on her big girl panties and goes on with her life as if this was normal and exciting. If she can't feel it, then she needs to fake it.
Yes, there will be times when you are sad or down or your children miss daddy and life is hard; and you need to validate those feelings. But if you let those feelings rule your life, your choices and your actions then you are not doing what I feel you are OBLIGATED as a wife and mother to do - which is to support your family by creating an emotionally safe environment and give peace of mind to your husband so that he does not worry while he is gone about his family. I don't think anyone has an excuse not to do that. There are too many resources out there to help you accomplish this goal - both civilian and military. This same principle applies to civilian families. Once you become a parent, you lose any excuse you had to not pull yourself together and become the rock they need. It isn't easy, but it's doable and children need their parent to be the adult, not the child that needs to be taken care of.
I'm sure this will sound harsh, but sometimes reality is harsh.