It’s a Dangerous World: The “Different Kind” of Deployment Version

A few weeks ago, I was on a flight when I struck up a conversation with the lady sitting next to me. She was really nice, and conversation came easy. When I told her I was a military spouse, she looked at me a little hesitantly. I could tell she wanted to choose her words very carefully. Then it came:

Has he been……over there?

I knew exactly where "over there" was, but I wanted to make a point, which I did.

Over there?

Yes, you know, Iraq.

Oh, no. No, he hasn’t been to Iraq yet. He’s been to Afghanistan and another Middle-Eastern country, though.


I could see the relief on her face, and I didn’t really like it, either. Because it made me realize how uninformed the general public is about what our spouses do, where they serve and how they serve. It’s not her fault, really. Today, most people equate service with Iraq because that’s what gets all the play in the press, but boy is that short-sighted. So, I took the opportunity to explain this to her. Nicely, of course. And when I was done, I think she understood my point.

Oddly, or maybe not, I felt more uptight when my husband was in the Middle East (before 9/11) than I did when he was in Afghanistan (after 9/11). That’s because when he was in Afghanistan, he had hundreds and thousands of people around him who had his back. When he was deployed to the other region, he didn’t have that. He had a small group of joint service members around him and he was, I believed, a sitting duck should someone start trouble. In fact, only two weeks after he redeployed, there was a terrorist incident.

Last week, my girlfriend found out that her husband will be deploying for frequent, yet very brief, stints to another region of the world. Technically, I suppose they’re considered TDY trips. The places he will go give her the heebie-jeebies. They are places that you only hear of when bad things happen, and bad things have happened there quite frequently. And like my husband several years ago, her husband won’t be surrounded by troops who move, live and operate en mass. I understand that fear. Yes, the military takes great precautions with all their personnel no matter where they’re sent, but that’s not always comforting when you aren’t surrounded by thousands of spouses whose deployment experience mirrors yours, in at least some ways. I’m sure Special Forces spouses can relate to this. After all, some of them don’t even know where their spouse is half of the time.

This isn’t a post about Iraq verses other locales. The work of our spouses is valuable no matter where it’s performed. It was just interesting to link the conversation I had with the lady on the plane to my friend’s current situation. And the link boiled down to this – it’s a dangerous world. And missions occur all across the globe. And families still worry and deal with separations. And a deployment is a deployment is a deployment in some ways, but not in others.

About the Author


Andi is married to an active-duty soldier and is the founder and former editor of SpouseBUZZ.

She is the founder of the Annual MilBlog Conference. The MilBlog Conference is the premiere event of the year for military bloggers. President George W. Bush, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, GEN David Petraeus, LTG Mike Oates, LTG William Caldwell, RADM Mark Fox, MG Kevin Bergner, MG David Hogg and The Honorable Pete Geren have addressed previous conferences.

While living in Washington, DC, Andi was the Ambassador to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Sew Much Comfort, a non-profit organization which makes and delivers, free of charge, special adaptive clothing for wounded service members. Andi has worked with several non-profits to help our wounded heroes and their families. She finds that work to be the most rewarding and meaningful of all.

Andi strives to find humor in the good, bad and ugly of life and is a firm believer that laughter has the ability to cure most ills.

  • SeabeeSeniorWife

    I recently spent some time with a group of girlfriends that I only see a few times a year. Most knew my hubby was deployed but not many of the details. They asked what he had done in Iraq and if he had seen any “bad stuff” while there.
    As I tried to explain that as a Seabee they are camp support, they all seemed to tune out and say that at least he wasn’t involved in any of the real fighting, so he should be okay. It sort of irritated me that they didn’t seem to realize that even though he was camp support, he was in danger many times because of the mortar attacks to the base and the IED’s on convoy missions and working outside the wire,etc. They really weren’t interested in hearing the realities of all those serving in volatile area overseas. I realize how fortunate I am that he didn’t have to be one of those going door to door. However, I also know that even though he didn’t actually fire his weapon or experience an IED first hand, that he still carries some baggage from his time there. It’s almost scary how little people really even want to know about what military personnel do.
    Also, I agree with you about being in an “elevated risk area” of the world versus an actual “war zone” area. I think I would feel better too, knowing that there are troops and equipment and back up for my hubby than knowing he is in an area with little support systems in place. For instance, if you think about the spouses of those soldiers doing the training in the Republic of Georgia right now. They must be beside themselves with worry. In one day, things there changed from tense to out of control, I can’t even imagine being in their shoes.

  • Diane

    This kind of reminds me of that line from “A Few Good Men” .. when Jack Nicholson says to Tom Cruise .. ” you can’t handle the truth” .. When my husband went to Iraq the first time, I had this curious couple at church ask about him and were quickly relieved that he was not going door-to-door with his M-16 .. It’s like most civilians feel some discomfort looking into the eyes of the American Military family seeing firsthand the sacrifice we (the family and the servicemember) make. Maybe not true guilt .. but there is definite some genuine discomfort

  • The abysmal ignorance of most of the public concerning the rest of the world usually leaves me shaking my head. If it’s not in the news either because something is blowing up or some starlet is doing something stupid, the public is completely clueless. As for what they think our spouses/family members are doing- too many movies, too little common sense.

  • Oh, I’ve heard this, too. When he went to Afghanistan last time, I, too, heard the “At least it’s not Iraq” response. Mostly these people were relieved because it was the more “politically attractive” place — as if he had a choice to begin with! As he gets ready to leave again, I’m hearing the same thing despite the fact that country is at its most dangerous and volatile politically (esp. with the current situation in Pakistan). Have they not been reading the news the past couple of weeks? No, of course not.

  • I used to hear “Gasp! I am so sorry!” when people learned that my son was in Iraq. I learned to smile and say “Don’t be sorry. He’s a grown man serving his Country. He enlisted after this war started. He believes in what he is doing, and he is trained well and has good equipment!”
    Sometimes you could have sworn that I just told them my son is a crack addict. Feel sorry for that… don’t feel sorry for me because my son is a soldier. I don’t feel sorry for me or him. I am very proud of him.

  • Dee

    My fiance is SF and I can definitely relate. I am 100 times more worried when he’s deployed to Afghanistan than when he is in Iraq. Luckily there have only been a few times he’s left suddenly and couldn’t tell me where.
    I work for a big corporation and get so angry at the people who are so utterly clueless. People look at me like I must be mad to choose this life. They make snide comments when I pass on a happy hour drink just incase he calls.
    I am so proud of what he is doing and I’m proud to do my little tiny, miniscule part in bringing a smile to his face with a letter or a package full of his favorite goodies amidst the stress (real stress, like I and most people will never know) of his every day.
    I get so baffled by the pity and remarks when I consider myself so lucky. Sure I’d rather not have worried myself to a couple grey hairs before I’ve even turned 30 but thank God for men like him who fight these savage beasts on their own soil. Every night after I get done praying for God’s will and protection on all of our troops, I thank him for bringing this wonderful man into my life who is so full of character and honor I sometimes catch myself staring at him in awe. I’ll take it. Every hour of lonliness and worry is worth just one moment with him.