I have a couple of friends whom I admire greatly. Not because they are beautiful, smart, or talented, although they are most definitely all of those things and I do admire them for that. These friends are particularly amazing to me because they have survived their husbands' military deployments.
I didn't know Rae yet while her husband was deployed, but I have heard her talk about her experiences, and I've watched her worry and rejoice in the past little while when it looked like her husband would be deployed again, and then find out that he wouldn't need to go after all. For the year her husband was gone to Iraq, I did watch Julie bring her two kids to church every Sunday. And I boohooed when Joel couldn't sit with me in church? I don't know if I could make it to church on a very consistent basis if my husband were to leave for that long. I freak out every Tuesday night when I have to put the kids to bed by myself, for goodness' sake! These are strong women.
But deployment means so much more than just having to go it alone while your husband is gone. It means that your husband is off fighting a war. It adds several more layers of emotion that I couldn't even begin to understand, and that's really the crux of it. These women have no idea if their husbands will come home alive and that is something I just can't comprehend as my husband goes out of town to do pretty un-dangerous things like, oh, conduct orchestras.
I have another amazing friend named Annette Lyon. A while back, she wrote an article about the wives of deployed soldiers. As she interviewed these women in her research, she ended up with much more material than the article could ever possibly hold, and the beginnings of a new book were born. That book, Band of Sisters, was just released a few weeks ago. I have already read it and I thoroughly enjoyed it (of course). It definitely opened up my eyes to these women and what they go through during a deployment.
Annette was equally as touched, and she has since decided to promote a very cool charity with her book.
You've heard of Flat Stanley, right? Chances are high that your child has read the book and done an accompanying Flat Stanley project in school. Well, this is Flat Daddies. This charity makes a life-sized photos of the deployed parent (because sometimes it's a Mommy) from the waist up that the family can have with them as a physical presence. Many families bring their Flat Daddies with them on vacation, to go trick-or-treating, to church, to the store, to soccer games--you name it. Anywhere Daddy would have gone.
Annette has a page on her website entirely devoted to the Flat Daddy program. From her page you can read about one family and their experience with their own Flat Daddy. It is truly inspiring. Because of the Flat Daddy, their baby girl went straight to her father when he came home.
There is also a lot of information there on how you can help families get a Flat Daddy of their own. You can donate a little or a lot. You can buy one for a family you know in real life, or you can contribute to the Flat Daddy of someone you have never met. Please check it out, and spread the word!
And then go read Band of Sisters.