UNDISCLOSED LOCATION SOUTHWEST ASIA -- --
The U.S. Military maintains a global presence sending Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines to any number of deployed locations.
Missions call service members to aid suffering people in the aftermath of natural disasters, to establish peace in war-torn regions and to fight on behalf of their country.
This service requires sacrifice including extended periods away from home. One such Airman is Senior Master Sgt. Bryon Harvey who is nearing the end of a six-month stint in the Middle East where he serves as the first sergeant for the 332d Maintenance Group.
Harvey is a Citizen-Airman for the Michigan Air National Guard and when he is not wearing the uniform, he is an ordained minister.
“At the end of the day on the civilian side, my job is to listen to people and help people with what’s going on and that’s what we do as first sergeants—we take care of people,” said Harvey.
Of particular interest to him is the topic of marriage enrichment - something he dealt with extensively as a minister, in fact he and his wife published a book on the subject.
“I was involved in marriage enrichment for 20 years with the church and my wife is an attorney who was on the opposite side of that, working with people whose marriages were ending,” he said. “We’ve really learned a lot about marriage—seen a lot of good and bad—and we feel that we have a story to share to help people.”
He adds that military deployments pose new hurdles especially on the home front.
“It’s always easier to be the one leaving,” he said. “All the stuff that we did at home, now someone else has to do that, we’re in the new environment and a lot of the household stuff is taken care of for us. We’ve got our food provided, we’ve got lodging—it’s just us that we have to take care of.”
One of the most important items he stresses for those deployed is communicating expectations for both spouses.
“We all have expectations and no matter how long you’ve been married, your expectations and your spouse’s expectations are going to be different—particularly when you’re deployed,” he said. “They’ve got expectations of what it’s going to look like there, you’ve got expectations of what it’s going to look like here and together we have expectations of what the other is going to be doing and we have to be open about that and discuss those expectations and really ask ‘are my expectations reasonable?’”
As an example he says it’s not reasonable for his wife to take care of the household, manage the kids and her career as if he were still there. Additionally, it’s important to voice your expectations because, “Your spouse is not going to be able to meet expectations they don’t know exist.”
One area he stresses is how often you communicate, talking through what works with the time difference and then working to stay consistent. He said it’s a luxury of the modern age that we can communicate around the globe instantly, and remembers his father’s deployment during the Gulf War where he was able to call home just twice in one year.
Finally he sums it up saying “We might be physically separated but we are still one marriage and one team,” he said.