Longer Deployments Taking a Toll on Military Families

As longer deployments become the new norm for military service members, their families are forced into a type of services as well, making sacrifices of their own.

The standard six-month deployment has been lengthened to eight, nine or ten months over the past few years.

It takes a toll on those back home, like Ruth Salgado, whose husband serves in the U.S. Navy.

When her son was a toddler, he would continually cry for his father and ask where he was.

“I had almost a year that I’m taking this kid to psychology because, ‘I want daddy, I want daddy,’” Salgado said. “Every time he would see me, he would just ask for daddy.”

Salgado’s son is a teenager now, but her little girl is starting to ask the same questions.

Together, they’ve endured deployment after deployment without their father. The longest stint was 10 months.

“No Christmas, no birthdays, no Mommy's Day and no Father's Day. It's been hard. And you're going to make me cry,” said Salgado as she recounted the missed holidays.

For Stacy Farrar, wife to a Marine Corps officer now serving as a reservist, deployments accounted for about half their first five years of marriage.

During one departure, Farrar had to deal with a death in the family alone.

"As the person at home, I personally, and I think that a lot of spouses of active-duty military guys and gals, they don't want their spouses deployed to worry about them,” said Farrar. “So you really put on that good face, you buck up and then you experience all that stuff when you get home."

She said the military community offers great support through fellow families, but so much time apart can begin to break a marriage.

The lack of communication took the biggest toll on the couple, who did not have a child at the time. Farrar told NBC 7 she and her husband were proactive about the problems military life would inflict on their marriage, but shorter deployments would make a significant difference.

"The part that I would say is confusing to me is that six-month rotations have worked, and it's still hard on the family, but it's not near as hard as an eight-month or longer rotation,” said Farrar.

Navy Lt. Timothy Hawkins said from Operation Inherent Resolve in the Middle East to Operation United Assistance in West Africa, the demand for the U.S. military is growing.

But he acknowledges eight to ten-month deployments are not sustainable.

“They’re taking a toll on our equipment; they’re taking a toll on our people and families,” said Hawkins.

He explained while service members knew what they were getting into, families – especially children – don’t necessarily volunteer for the long absences.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert has said his goal is to get deployments down to six and seven months again, but Hawkins says the longer deployments will probably last at least another year.

So this Veterans Day, Farrar said she hopes everyone takes a moment to appreciate the liberties our country offers.

“It's truly not free. The only reason we have it is because men and women risk their lives and are willing to spend time away from their family for months at a time to protect our country," she said.

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