Coping with deployment


Becky Hickman Walters

The feeling of a hug after missing a loved one is almost unexplainable. Whether it be after basic training, or any amount of time away from home, the hug from a soldier is usually the first exchange to show the happiness of being back with their families. "Our little princess [Hickman's niece] misses her hero," says Becky Walters.

Alexis Rosenberger, Reporter

Every year there are military men and women who do not get to come home during the holidays due to deployment all around the world. For some of those men and women, as well as their families, it can be fairly simple to cope. For others, coping is an emotional roller coaster and a constant reminder to cherish the times they are together.

Nolan Hickman, an infantryman in the United States Army, is currently deployed in Europe and says, “This is the first real time I’ve been away for so many holidays. It’s not always easy, but we make the best of it together… Missing the holidays gets easier over time. You get used to the fact that the men you are with are your family. You do things with them that you would do with your real family.”

During deployment, especially around the holidays, servicemen and woman do not get the privilege to have real home-cooked meals or continue traditions with their own families like they have throughout their lives. That doesn’t mean they don’t try to still continue these traditions. Hickman says that they realize they are stuck there together so they do each other’s traditions. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, traditions of the country they are in, and Christmas tree lightings are some of the festive bonding activities the military does to aid their soldiers in coping while being deployed during the holidays. Some even get the holidays off to just relax and make phone calls home so they can enjoy the holidays as best they can while away.

Hickman says, “Honestly, the hardest part of being away for the holiday is not being with my real family, but I’m with my second family. I share these holidays with men that I spend every second of every day with. That’s what makes it a little easier. We are huge on family, that is one of the great things about the military!”

Deployment doesn’t only impact the soldiers, it also impacts their families. For some family members, the absence during the holidays “for the most part, feels normal” according to Brogan Barnes, who has experienced two brothers in the Air Force. Becky Walters, mother of Hickman, says that having a child in the military is “harder than you ever imagine.”

There are many different ways families cope with the absence of their family members. Hannah Foulks’s family Facetimes her brother, who is a marine deployed in Japan, “so that he can see everyone and kinda feel like he’s with us,” during the holidays. Walters advises that there is also the method of joining military support groups to help cope with a family member’s deployment, especially with all the emotions that come from it. Talking to their deployed loved ones as much as they can, and even sending care packages or little presents, are other ways families try to cope. 

Walters says, “Sometimes I don’t cope very well. Nolan and I have always been pretty close, I feel like part of me is missing when he isn’t here.”