Three Army Wives Find Ways to Cope with Deployments

By Megan Han
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT DRUM, N.Y., April 30, 2007 - Being an Army wife can be difficult. Being an Army wife at the 10th Mountain Division's Fort Drum can be even more challenging, since the 10th is one of the Army's most deployed divisions.

Of the three brigades at Fort Drum, one can usually assume that two are deployed simultaneously while the other is vigorously training and planning for an impending deployment.

Being an Army wife is a job in itself. Deployments prove challenging and Army wives meet the task of holding the family together, standing by their husbands, and managing the myriad routine responsibilities of everyday living, such as home and auto maintenance.

Most Army wives will tell you that it's friends, family, faith and fun that gets them through the multiple deployments. Roanne Speedie, for example, has found a fun and creative diversion to help her through deployments.

Speedie is a quilter, and her craft has helped her get through the seven deployments that she and her husband Rick, a soldier with the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry regiment, have endured during their 13 years of marriage.

Speedie first became interested in quilting when she was in college, dabbled in it when she and Rick moved to Fort Polk, La., but her hobby really took off when they arrived at Fort Drum in November 2002. Rick has deployed twice since then, so she feels fortunate to have such a close-knit group of friends in the Fort Drum quilt guild.

"Rick came home from work one day and said 'Captain Oscar's wife is a quilter and belongs to a quilt group on post; you should give her a call,'" Speedie said. "Once I got past the 'How the heck did that conversation start?' reaction, I was excited about meeting some other quilters."

Speedie went on to say the "quilt guild here on post is made up of ladies that are spouses of active-duty soldiers, active-duty soldiers - yep, we have a couple of those -- retirees from the military, and Defense Department civilian employees."

The quilters represent a wide age range and skill level, but they enjoy getting together to quilt, share quilting advice and talk about child care, deployments and their spouses.

"Some of us jokingly call it our monthly therapy session," Speedie said. "It's the one time a month that some of the ladies have just to themselves, for their own enjoyment. It also gives us a way to give back to the Fort Drum community while doing something we love. And, while you're busy with your project, you aren't constantly thinking, 'Is he all right?'"

Carrie Murray turns to her faith for guidance and strength throughout deployments. Murray's husband, Larry, is a soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, and they have weathered five deployments in the 14 years they have been married. Three of those deployments have been with units out of Fort Drum.

"Reading my Bible daily helps immensely. I feel like God is talking to me during my devotions," Murray explained.

The Murrays have two children, so Carrie also fills her time planning activities for their kids and keeps Larry informed of their many goings-on by sending him weekly e-mails. She said that "helps me feel like he isn't so far away... he is able to know exactly what we are doing here and he stays connected."

Along with planning activities to get through the deployment, Murray also helps her children focus on the fun things they will get to do when Larry comes home. They have even developed a new word in their vocabulary: 'whendaddycomeshome.'

"That's all one word because it's now a word in our house," she said.

Murray and her children pray together for Larry as well. She feels that is one of the best ways for her to show support for her children while their dad is away.

"We pray for Larry's safety daily," she said. "Prayer is amazing, because you can do it. Worrying is an idle activity, while prayer is an active activity."

Some wives go home to be with their friends and families during deployments. Leigh Niven is one such wife. She moved back to Chicago, Ill., when her husband deployed in March 2006.

Niven and her husband, Brian, a soldier with the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, are currently experiencing their second deployment since being assigned to Fort Drum in February 2004.

Brian and Leigh quickly learned what life would be like as a married couple in the Army at Fort Drum.

"I realized very quickly what life would be like with an Army man. Five days after we married, Brian left for his first tour to Iraq," Niven said.

"We have been married for three years (now)," she said. "Two of those years, Brian was deployed. The year he was home was full of training and courses around the country. We have spent a total of approximately six to seven months together."

Niven said she feels fortunate to be with her family and have so many friends from home close by. Yet she finds her greatest support from Fort Drum friends, with whom she is in frequent contact.

"The best support I've received is from my fellow Army wives," she said. "There is no one else in the world who can understand the pain and stresses of these deployments. Whenever I need to vent, cry, complain, I just call one of my Army wife friends. I know I can always count on them."

Although all Army wives handle deployments differently, they all have one thing in common. Each wife said she has her own individual way of keeping busy and facing each day with her head up, ready to take on the challenge.

Niven summed it up well by saying, "I have learned how to deal with emotional pain and stress in ways that I never knew I could. To be an Army wife is something really special. This job is not for just anyone. Army wives are one of a kind."

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