As I wrote in my previous post for Blue Star Families, my father-in-law Nick suffered a massive heart attack and subsequently underwent a successful triple bypass surgery. The initial grim prognosis triggered emergency leave, coordinated and paid for by the Red Cross, for Mark and his twin Matt. For two weeks, the three of us were the “crisis management team” for the Mayor family: establishing the Nick Mayor Benefit Fund and online donation website, creating and updating our Facebook page, meeting with Nick’s employer and family lawyer, engaging the community and donors, and interfacing with the media to better advertise the fundraiser for the mounting medical bills. We even organized a benefit event that was a success, considering it was planned in less than a week! My mother-in-law, Jeanine, held the primary caregiver role, visiting and assisting Nick in the hospital every day. She is now acting as his in-home nurse and is doing a fabulous job! We each found our unique roles during this crisis and we couldn’t have gotten through it without working as a team.
Even with a “normal” deployment, it is healthiest for all involved if each party knows their roles. I feel if the deployed servicemember is in a relationship but is unmarried, roles can be a little more complicated and feelings might get hurt easier. During Mark’s first deployment (November 2011-April 2012), we were engaged and I understood that I didn’t have a “right” to information or being connected to anything “official.” Matt was first point-of-contact (POC) for news, and their parents would’ve had the “right to know” before me. (The military doesn’t care about unmarried significant others!) But before the deployment began, I had already established open communication with both Jeanine and Matt. When Mark was in the rollover accident in February 2012, for example, Matt contacted me and told me everything he knew. Jeanine and I also talked and texted frequently.
Since Mark and I got married at the courthouse before this deployment, I am a military dependent and the first POC now. However, the lines of communication are still open between his parents and myself, and I understand my responsibility of informing them of vital information. At the same time, it is important to have boundaries and not be TOO communicative. Whether the soldier is married or unmarried, feelings of jealousy could arise if one party (the soldier’s partner or parent) is under the impression they are not being properly informed. As the married spouse, it is also important to know what is okay and not okay to share with your in-laws. He may not want his parents to know when he is having a rough time, because that could cause them to worry more than is necessary. However, each family will be different with these boundaries and that is only one example.
In the e-book Everyone Serves (downloadable for free HERE!), there are tips specifically for parents on pages 46 and 53 about handling their relationship and communication with their deployed child. In many ways, deployment might be harder for the parents than for the spouse because 1) they aren’t as connected to official information, and 2) that tough soldier used to be their baby. They remember holding him in their arms for the first time, helping him learn how to walk, seeing him off to school….and now that child is grown and holds a perilous job. As spouses, we need to be a support to our in-laws and to make sure that they feel included in the deployment cycle as proud military parents.
Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.