Why are the Danes in Afghanistan? If you ask the Danish Defence, it is to make Afghanistan a better place. To help the Afghans. Whatever. Danish soldiers are expected to put themselves at risk and put their personal lives on hold for three months to half a year, for the political ambitions of a country that is most often taken for Holland.
This sacrifice is rewarded with a small stripe of cloth they can wear on their uniform, double pay while deployed and this year, a designer table side flag pole. Which each soldier must transport back to Denmark, within the baggage allowances set by the Defence.
What do the families get? There is a badly designed website called The Soldiers Portal, there are three Saturday afternoon lectures (one before deployment, one at half way during leave and one shortly before re-deployment), there is a 24 hour helpline to which, if you were to ring them outside of Danish office hours (8-4), set you up for an appointment in Copenhagen to see if you need psychological help. There is an online helpline, to which, if you (for example), say something like “And there’s the not-small-consideration that I am foreign in Denmark. Occasionally, at random, not every time, people are completely awful to me.” they will reply “You also have problems with falling in and adapting to the Danish society.” My cringing muscles are extra strong after my four and a half years here. There is a family network run by volunteers. I have no idea what goes on there, so I cannot speak to its quality.
This is what the relatives’ website has to say about re-deployment (which apparently means when a soldier comes back and not when they are sent out again)
“The day the soldier comes home is an event that you both have definitely counted down until and waited for with anticipation and longing. Home-coming and the time after is exciting, where the feelings of missing him are over and plans and dreams (big and small), can be realised. It’s a time of great expectations and hopes of what is possible now or can finally happen. Home coming can stretch out for up to a year before the everyday goes back to normal, for good or ill.
For some, it goes very quickly while for others it takes longer. It is one thing to be purely physically reunited, something else is to share the many experiences you each have had while you were separated. It takes time to find each other again and make your day to day lives good again together.
What you come back to, is to a high degree a question of what you left. Neither those left behind nor the soldier become different people during a deployment and earlier problems don’t automatically disappear.
Having said that, there are many who experience that deployment and separation actually teaches them so many new things about themselves, their partner, children, friends, siblings, parents, country and world that you can find yourself in a new place after a deployment. And from this new place, you get the opportunity to take stock, put things behind yourself and get new opportunities and find each other again. Either in the “good old way” or in a new way.”
Ok. So, we’re talking half a side of A4, of not very illuminating “it’s going to be a process. Boning is involved.”.
What do the other countries offer? The American army which has longer deployments and more frequently, seems to be a bit more on the ball. Plus there are many other websites which cater for families.
Military.com has this step-by-step his and hers guide to how to get through the process, an overview of the emotions experienced. Information about how all the emotions I am experiencing, completely not addressed in the Danish guide, are normal. Homecoming tips. I actually could do this all day, that is just the information on Military.com There are also tips and information and support on thousands of other English language websites, just type “homecoming spouses”. (I cannot even find the British stuff there is so much American information. I found one thing which gives you an age by age breakdown of how deployment affects children.)
If you type “hjemkomst pårørende” you get the page I just translated and some information about some parades.
The American spouses are getting a heads up. “This shit is about to get real.” The soldiers are getting a heads up “She’s probably more fucked up than you, yo. And she ran your household on her own, backwards and in high heels.”
I told my boyfriend that I was nervous and he said that was “weird”. Because he has no idea that actually, that is very very normal. The army took the wives aside to tell them what PTSD looks like but they did not take the soldiers aside to tell them that we might be suffering? What total bullshit employers they turned out to be.
He is back in two days.