Learn how to be totally independent. You have to be able to support yourself physically, mentally, and (especially) emotionally. In order for you to be able to support your soldier, you have to take care of yourself. Keep yourself busy with your job, school, hobbies, or family. It is important for you to have a life of your own.
Learn how to keep a secret. Do not share any information that could possibly be used against anyone in the military. This means no precise countdowns on when he’s coming home, no information on current projects or deployments, and absolutely no locations. The internet is not a place to talk about his job.
Learn how to fill out a US Customs sheet at the post office. This isn’t really a big deal. The post office employees are generally very nice when it comes to military packages, but be sure to have his address on hand and a detailed list of the package’s contents. Also know what therestrictions are on sending military packages.
Add a personal touch to care packages. Sure he might have asked for socks and stamps, but don’t be afraid to add a few personal items. Pictures, handwritten letters, books, mixed CDs (if he has a way to play them), and other reminders of times you’ve had together are great. But make sure these items are morale boosters, and remember that he will have very limited space to store these items (he may even have to carry them).
Learn the acronyms. After about five minutes of talking to any military personnel about their time in the military, you’re likely to hear at least 20 acronyms. It helps to bridge the gap between his military and civilian life if you have an idea of what he’s talking about. Don’t be afraid to ask because showing a genuine interest helps to prove your dedication to supporting him.
Look your best when he comes back. Don’t worry too much about this because you will most likely look beautiful to him no matter what after a months of being away from each other, but remember he has most likely been talking about you during his deployment or training to all of his friends. So it only makes sense for you to present yourself well when he comes back. And if you know he has a favorite outfit, wear it! Take pride in yourself to give him someone to be proud of.
Learn how to swallow your own problems (temporarily). Try to remember that you’re boyfriend might be in a stressful environment, and those 5 minutes out of the day that he gets to talk to you shouldn’t be spent on you rehashing every detail of your fight with your best friend. There is a time and a place for you to vent your problems to him. Keep things light until you have a chance to talk to him for an extended period of time, but always end on a good note.
Learn military time. In the military, there is no such thing as 5 pm, it’s 1700. And understand that he isn’t allowed to be late to anything. Be considerate of what he is used to and try to be ready 15 minutes early even if you’re going to a non-military function.
Boost his confidence. It can be difficult for soldiers to see the big picture and the consequences of their actions sometimes. It helps to remind him of how many people his actions helped save or how important what he did is. And if he tells you about a commendation he receives, make a big deal out of it even if you don’t fully understand it. Awards, coins, promotions, and compliments from superiors all deserve congratulations from you. He’s working extremely hard, so be proud of him!
Don’t make him feel guilty. Be careful to not make your soldier feel bad for being away from you. And guilt-tripping him just to get something in return is a huge DON’T in any type of relationship. Remind him (and yourself) that what he’s doing will better your lives together and try to keep your mind on the goals you two have set (financial stability, education, marriage, family, serving your country, etc.).
Avoid disturbing material. News and information on military tragedy can turn the most logical person into a sobbing mess. Avoid military news, movies, books, documentaries, etc. as much as possible. And when you do hear about a military-related tragedy, remember that you’re only hearing about the most extreme cases and most of the time these examples will be totally unrelated to your soldier.
And remind yourself of why you’re with him! Talk with him as much as possible, reread old letters and emails, flip through your old pictures with him, and focus on the good times you had together. Remember that deployments and training are temporary. Believe it or not, deployment (if done correctly) will strengthen your relationship and make the time you have together ten times more valuable. You will be back together with your soldier soon enough!
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The hardest part of it all is watching him walk away again at the end of the day. Knowing he’s leaving again. Saying “see you later” each and every time, hoping with each one, you’ll never have to say it again. When they leave and you watch them, helplessly, tears streaming down your face, that’s the hard part. The part no one tells you about. The part that tears you to pieces. But there’s always another reunion, sometime down the road, that keeps you going. Another chance of seeing them again which makes you get up in the morning. The knowledge that you’ll once again be in their arms after the wait which eases you to sleep at night. It’s not an easy life but it’s the one I’ve chosen and wouldn’t trade for anything.