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March 7, 2011

Interview with Kristen D.

by K. Tsetsi

–by Kristen Tsetsi

Kristen D., a Navy wife of 10 years, is seven months into her fourth deployment experience. She married her husband Bobby, who was already in the Navy at the time, at 27.

Her experiences with deployments have changed through the years as she’s become more accustomed to them.

“Deployments get easier in the sense that I know what to expect,” Kristen says. “My husband left for his first deployment twelve days after we got married, and I was scared to death. I was insecure about whether he would still love me when he got back and I was concerned for his safety. I was also pregnant and scared to go through that alone. In retrospect, it all seems silly now, but at the time, I couldn’t imagine how I would get through it.”

One of the challenges of a deployment for those at home is trying to decide whether to watch or avoid the news. Watching, when war coverage was more frequent, could have meant being needlessly worried by reports from regions where loved ones were stationed, but not watching could have meant missing something important. But this was primarily true for those whose loved ones were in the Army, Marines, or sometimes, Air Force.

The media—when they do cover the Middle East conflicts we’re involved in—rarely discuss Navy contributions, but this doesn’t faze Kristen.

“A deployment is a deployment regardless of the branch of the military you are affiliated with,” she says. “I am not put off at all because the navy seems to get less coverage. I have made it a point to get very involved with deployments. For instance, I served as the FRG [Family Readiness Group] president for four years, through two deployments. When you get involved like that, you don’t notice things like the amount of coverage your branch receives.”

Over the last decade, Kristen has discovered that deployments—for her, at least—have five distinctive segments.

“The first is pre-deployment, which is usually the second most stressful time in the grand scheme of things. I find the anticipation of an upcoming deployment far outweighs the stress of an actual deployment,” she says. “Next is the first third of the deployment. This is not too bad, because I am busy setting new routines and getting used to the idea of settling in. The second third is a very good time. I find my feet and get comfortable, gain my confidence and start to feel like things are going to be okay. The last third, or pre-homecoming, is usually the worst part for me. Time literally seems to stop and I begin to feel like this thing will never end! Finally, homecoming and the time thereafter is wonderful! We have never been a couple who has problems readjusting. I know a lot of families have a hard time with it, but we are very lucky because we don’t. I have no idea why that is, though.”

Being used to deployments doesn’t mean there aren’t bad days, and Kristen has had some of her own.

KRISTEN: I used to get really insulted when I would vent my frustrations about a deployment and get the response, “Well, you knew what you got into when you married him.” That used to really upset me. It made me feel like people were under the impression that I love my husband less because he deploys, or that I don’t have the right to my own feelings because I asked for this. While it’s true that deployments come with the territory, they still suck.

LIFT: What bothers you the most during deployments?

KRISTEN: The effect it has on my kids. I do absolutely everything I can to ease the burden of deployment on them, but nothing I do can change the fact that their dad misses birthdays, school concerts, meet the teacher day, etc.

LIFT: What do you wish more people understood about the experience of having a loved one go to war?

KRISTEN: I have found that there’s not a whole lot of support in the local community for my kids and I wish that were different. For instance, my husband was deployed during Christmas this year and that was really hard on my kids. It might have been nice for them to receive some sort of recognition form their school or something acknowledging their sacrifice. They got nothing and that bothered me. I really did choose this life, but they were sort of dragged into it as a matter of circumstance.

LIFT: People who this it’s unrealistic to think TIME will recognize the military family as TIME’s Person of the Year might say the military family hasn’t had its own impact on our culture – not the same way the military has. How do you respond to that?

KRISTEN: I find that argument laughable. Without the support of military families, the military couldn’t do its job.

LIFT: What elements of being a military family do you most enjoy?

KRISTEN: I have a tremendous amount of pride in the fact that my family serves. I also look to the perks. Instead of having one honeymoon, I’ve had at least four and look forward to number five! My kids are very proud and they are being raised with a sense of service to country. There’s no better example for them then their dad.


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