January 17, 2011
By Stacey Abler
Each time my husband has been deployed, our communication types have been different. While we were always able to have phone calls and mail, any other forms of communication were different. We’ve never been able to do any kind of video chat because of his unit restrictions and we were only able to chat over an instant messenger during one deployment. But many units don’t have those same restrictions and there are many avenues available to you to keep the lines of communication open.
When your military member is deployed, it is very important to communicate as often as possible. Many military spouses find this to be very frustrating because in almost all instances, communication has to originate with him. Unless he has a cell phone, which can be incredibly expensive, it is impossible just to call him up or message him when you’re ready to chat online. You have to wait for him to be available for the chat which can leave you chained to whatever form of communication you are using anxiously awaiting a signal from the other side of the world.
Thankfully, communication is continuing to improve. Not so long in the distant past, spouses had to wait months for one letter to appear and it would be dated just as far back giving them no real indication as to how he was doing at the time they received the letter. Today, we have virtually instant communication and we don’t have to endure those weeks and months of silence like our predecessors did.
Let’s take a look at some of the communication options you may have available to you during a deployment.
- Mail – This option is almost always available. Though letters may take as much as two weeks to appear, it’s always fun to find that piece of mail from overseas when you open the mailbox. And he will of course enjoy getting mail on his end as well. He can send mail from overseas at no charge. Even if you choose to communicate in different ways other than a handwritten letter, you should always send him packages from home while he is gone.
- Phone – This availability can differ based on his unit, where he is and even what his mission is at the moment. Some units are close to a MWR center that allows phone calls for free where others must use calling cards in order to call home. Others have satellite phones available to call home at no charge. And still others may be in a position where they can’t call home for weeks at a time due to a certain mission or an isolated location.
- Skype – Many military families have turned to Skype as a way to communicate when their soldier is overseas. For this, he will need an internet connection and you will as well. Depending on his location, he may not be allowed to have an internet connection in his room. If this is the case, it is possible he can still use the program on the MWR computers. The regulations for this tend to differ from one center to the next.
- Instant Messenger – Like Skype, this also requires an internet connection on both ends. If the MWR computers don’t allow Skype, many times they will allow instant messenger programs. In addition, Facebook now has instant messenger as well which can sometimes allow you to access this type of communication even when traditional instant messenger programs are not allowed to be used on the public computer.
- Facebook – Some military branches and units have blocked Facebook and other social media type sites from government computers. However, if access has not been blocked, this can be a great way for him to communicate as he can update his status for all family members and friends to see as well as send private messages and use the instant messenger feature. If he has an internet connection in his room, this can be a great way to communicate with all.
Regardless of the type of communication used, encourage all of your family members and friends to stay in communication with him regardless of how often they hear back. While he may not have the time to respond with lengthy responses to each person, receiving mail and other communication from home will help to bolster his spirits while he is overseas.
Your family members and friends can also reach out to adopt others within his unit who are not receiving mail or other items from home. Your soldier or his Chaplain can provide names and addresses for those who do not have family and friends communicating with them while they are gone. This can be a great family, church or school project that can be done to get everyone involved in the process.
When checking into communication options, make sure to pay attention to the cost associated with them. Some cell phones for instance can seem cheap in the beginning but carry outrageous per minute fees when used. The same goes for private internet connections in his room. Be sure to get all of the information before signing a contract with any extra communication service when he is overseas. Remember that the MWR communication options – telephones and computers – are almost always an option and are free. So staying in contact with him during deployments does not have to be an expensive venture.
Before he leaves, sit down and talk about your communication expectations while he is deployed. While these may have to be adjusted once he is assigned overseas and made aware of communication availability, it can be helpful to have this conversation before he leaves. For instance, letting him know that even a one sentence email is better than no communication at all may alleviate some stress on his end to always feel like he must spend a lot of time drafting emails to you. Set your expectations but also be willing to adjust them if needed based on the restraints on his end during the deployment.
Above all, remember that communication of some sort is key. It doesn’t matter so much how you communicate, just that you do.