PHOTO CAPTION: FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Pfc. Joel Detamore, Forward Support Company, 4th Engineer Battalion, meets his son, Remington Beau. Ali Detamore gave birth to the couple's fourth child Saturday while her husband is deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
July 18, 2013
By Andrea Stone (Fort Carson)
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The colors have been cased, and farewells said. The planes have flown, and the tears shed. Now, a month later, those left behind are learning new routines and adjusting to life without their loved ones.
Every deployment is different, and every deployment is different for every person. But coping strategies are similar -- breaking up long deployments into shorter segments, staying busy and refusing to dwell on possibilities. Those strategies unite men and women, wives and fiancés, those with children and those without.
Facing a first deployment
When Pfc. Joel Detamore, Forward Support Company, 4th Engineer Battalion, arrived at Fort Carson in November, he knew he'd be deploying, but didn't tell his wife, Ali Detamore. Instead, he broke the news on a date over the holidays at home in Indiana.
"I (wasn't) mad," she said. "I expected at some point (he) would be deployed, but it was frustrating for me because I felt like, if he would have told me right away, maybe my decision would've been to stay home instead of to come out here. But by then, we already had our house, and our stuff was moved out here."
Fort Carson is their first duty station, and his June deployment to Kandahar is also their first.
To complicate matters, Ali Detamore gave birth to their fourth child Saturday.
"I'm a little sad, but, because it's not our first child, I don't feel panicked or disappointed. It's not like I haven't shared that with him," she said.
Detamore is thankful for the distraction her other three children -- all under age 7 -- provide.
"I can't imagine my husband being deployed and not having my children to take care of. I think I'd be buying dogs or cats or rabbits," she said, laughing.
Her children feel the stress of deployment too.
"Cami (age 3) has been waking up every night, crying for Daddy," Ali Detamore said. "He's been gone two or three weeks at a time before for training, so I don't know how she processes the difference.
"Gunnar (21 months) has just been real clingy. The first few days, if somebody would come over or the phone would ring, Gunnar would run to the door, 'Daddy, Daddy!'"
In the months leading up to his departure, the Family tried to spend as much time together as possible. But with the looming deployment, uncertainty about what to expect and how to interact led to stress and occasional problems.
"I was kind of bitter about it, and I didn't know how to direct it," she said.
After he left, Ali Detamore felt lost.
"I was in a state of panic that first week, crying my eyes out every night. My kids were like, 'Are you going to be OK?'" she said.
The panic of the first weeks has faded now, but Ali Detamore feels additional responsibility and the accompanying exhaustion.
"Around bedtime, that's when I'm ready to just sit down," she said. "I wish he'd walk through the door at 5:30 p.m. because I'd really like to just go use the bathroom by myself and not have to get up every time they cry."
Being the parent responsible for day-to-day issues brings unique challenges and first-time problems that now have to be faced alone.
"Liya (age 6) got bullied at the park. (The other girl) said that she was walking ugly … and she was going to push her down," Ali Detamore said. "That's really the first bullying thing we've had to deal with.
"I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to tell Liya. … I didn't know what to say. That's rough."
At those times, she tries to remember that someone else has it harder, and there is an end to the deployment.
"It's hard … not to throw a little pity party," she said. "I think it's easier for me because I have things to look forward to, like the baby's coming soon, and then I have Family coming out, and then it'll be Christmas."
While she waits, she tries not to dwell on the possibilities that come with a husband in a war zone.
"I try not to think about (the) homecoming because it makes me cry, and I don't want to get excited about it and have something go wrong or have it not happen. I can't go there," she said. "It's just something extra to worry about. Worry about it when it comes."
Every deployment differs
Even on a third deployment, Jamie Pierce refuses to consider the possibilities.
"You see CNN on in public places, and you see something (about) Soldiers killed in Afghanistan, and you're …," Pierce's voice trailed off. "Obviously you know there's a risk, but I just never entertain that thought. I don't even pretend that there's that possibility."
Her husband, Sgt. Brad Pierce, FSC, 4th Eng. Bn., was deployed twice to Iraq, but this is the first deployment since their son, Tristan, was born in December, and the first deployment she decided not to return home.
"This time I was determined that I was going to stay here and tough it out. I didn't want to have to move back in with Family," she said.
The Pierces arrived at Fort Carson in April 2012, and, for most of that time, they've known he would deploy.
"I had friends here already (when he deployed). Your Family is good and fun to be around, but sometimes people just don't understand. When you have friends who are going through the same thing, it's a lot easier," she said.
With only 15 months between deployments, the Pierces tried to spend as much time together as possible.
"That's one thing that's different between me and my civilian friends because they're like, 'My husband is driving me crazy. I need a night off, or I need a weekend getaway.' But me and Brad, we do everything together," Pierce said. "Because we spent so much time apart, we don't really want to do stuff apart."
Even with friends and the support of her church, there are still times when the absence stings.
"Some circumstances can trigger it," she said. "When we were going to church that first day that (he wasn't) there, and I was walking up to church by myself … just little stuff like that, but then other times I'm completely fine."
With a 7-month-old baby to take care of, her days pass quickly, but she has a new appreciation for what her husband does when he is home.
"I didn't realize how much of a help Brad was until he's not here," she said. "(I'm) used to being home by (myself) during the day because he's at work. But then in the afternoon, (I wonder) how I'm even going to make dinner because (the baby is) screaming."
A lot of changes will happen for Tristan during the nine months his father is deployed. He's had his first cold, learned to use a walker and will celebrate his first birthday in December, a few months before the battalion redeploys.
"We were 'Skyping,' and Tristan was laying in his bed and Brad was like, 'Gosh, he's grown already,'" Jamie Pierce said.
Between Skype and email, they communicate almost every day, unlike previous deployments
when he didn't have Wi-Fi.
"It can be a good and a bad thing that you get to talk to each other every day because then there's that time when they're going out on a mission, and you may not hear from them for a couple days, and you're like, is everything OK?" she said.
To help her cope with the stress and uncertainty, Jamie Pierce surrounds herself with friends and tries to stay busy.
"Some Family (members) say they're going to come out this summer, so hopefully they do. And then (we're) going home (for) the holidays. And then after that, it'll only be (a few) months, and then they'll be back. So, I try to make little checkpoints," she said.
Her advice to other spouses in the same position: "Surround yourself with good friends. If you don't have friends, somebody to hang out with every once in a while, you'll go crazy."
The importance of being social is a lesson Cully Cavness learned early on. He and his girlfriend of three years, 2nd Lt. Emily Nunez, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Eng. Bn., got engaged about two months before her June deployment.
"I try to have people over for dinner and (to hang out)," he said. "It's a really good way for me to spend the night with 10 friends and just talk about other stuff, not Emily being gone."
The couple met while at Middlebury College, Vt., where Nunez was one of the few students enrolled in the ROTC program.
"She graduated the top in her ROTC class, so she was able to have influence on where she went," Cavness said. "Colorado Springs made a lot of sense."
After moving in January, Nunez had a surprise, though.
"She got to Fort Carson. Two weeks later, she received orders saying Kandahar. The rug was pulled out from under us," Cavness said. "She had three or four months to get ready."
That experience prepared him for what he can expect as an Army spouse.
"I totally realized that you can't take anything for granted, circumstance or job or position or location. It's always dynamic depending on (the Army's) needs," he said.
He was in New York on a business trip when Nunez found out she would be deploying.
"She called and … was worried about our relationship," he recalled. "So I just responded by being really supportive and assuring her that I was going to be there for her, and that I wasn't going anywhere because of the deployment."
They aren't strangers to separation. Cavness, who works for a company that develops geothermal power plants, has to travel internationally from time to time, and he did a yearlong fellowship during which he traveled to 25 countries.
"We have had experience with long distance before, so that's also helping us come into this with more confidence," he said.
Big challenges come from being an Army fiancé instead of an Army spouse.
"If you're married, you get all the benefits and all the special treatment. If you're not, then you don't exist. We've been together for three years. We're engaged. We have every intention of getting married when she comes back. In fact, we probably would be married while she's away if she wasn't away," he said.
If something happened to Nunez, Cavness wouldn't be notified in the same way an Army spouse would.
"I don't get any of that treatment," he said. "Her parents would be the point of contact. (I'd) find out eventually."
The potential for danger is something Cavness has thought about.
"They have sandbags and mortar blockades everywhere for a reason," he said. "It's definitely on your mind. You try to block it out and not think about it too much."
While Nunez is deployed, Cavness does more wedding planning than most typical men, he said.
"That's one of the interesting dynamics of our situation right now."
Nunez redeploys about five or six months before her wedding, when she will buy her dress and the couple will pick out rings. They hope to marry in the Middlebury College chapel.
Keeping that end date in mind gives Cavness endurance to keep going.
"It will end," he said. "I think everybody who's deployed takes a lot of comfort from that date range. It's coming. I just have to be patient and sit through it."