Pat knows he'll be going to Afghanistan. He's known this for a quite a while. The President's plan for a surge only solidified the fact that Pat is going. Pat will be part of that surge you are hearing about. We have known he was going since before the surge was announced. One of the hardest parts of preparing for the deployment is carrying the burden of knowing what is coming next for as long as we do. We could debate now whether it is better to know far in advance or to have short notice orders. We've never been given short notice, so I only know how waiting and preparing for a deployment wears on my family and relationship.
There is a tendency to withdraw before deployment. I am not sure if I do it myself, but Pat certainly does. I cannot speak for him or his feelings, but I can give my opinion on it. I know Pat dreads saying good-bye to his two little boys. I don't think it was as hard the first time when he left Ryan. At that point having a child was so new that there wasn't a way to really comprehend all that he was going to miss. This time he has seen not only how much Ryan changed in the 9 months that he missed, but also how much he's changed in the 13 months he's been back home. The kids change quickly and grow up so fast. It must be sad for him to look at Sean and know he's going to miss that stuff all over again a second time. One of the saddest comments Pat has said during this pre-deployment time has been, "Ryan won't even remember me if I don't make it back." I cannot dispute the possibility that Ryan is still too young to remember, but I know that if anything were to happen to Patrick, my children would hear all the stories and see all the pictures of our amazing time together as a family and know how much their father loved them. I know there is the possibility of Pat not returning to us, but to be honest I will not let myself think that way. My husband will return to me and our children.
As I said, Pat's response and way to deal with the pressure of an upcoming deployment is to withdraw from our family. He will not speak very often and just doesn't seem to be enjoying the times he is here. This definitely drives me nuts. For a while it was causing fights between me and him because I didn't understand what was going on. Now that I'm certain of the cause, the only things I can do are help Pat communicate his feelings with me, reassure him of everything, and remind him to be present in these moments at home that he is able to enjoy right now.
I think that this deployment is the most intimidating of the ones Pat has been on. The political/terrorist climate over there right now is so tense. As our troops begin to surge, the enemy has promised to surge too. For those who do not know, do not think that Afghanistan is like Iraq. I am not saying one deployment is worse than the other, but Pat learned last time that they are very different deployments--the terrain, the enemy, the country, the fighting, etc.
So how do we prepare for this? We try to enjoy all the moments we have together. We accept the reality of what is going to happen in a few months and all that entails. However, we do not dwell on it. That is difficult on Pat because he feels the need to be mentally prepared. He has the hardest job. He has to be the Soldier and the family guy, and sometimes those roles conflict. For us, the only way to work with both roles is complete honesty. I need to know what Pat is thinking, feeling, fearing. I can reassure him to the best of my ability, and then we open our arms to the unknown hoping for the best. And before we start our journey through another deployment, we celebrate every second we can spend together.