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Merge or Overtake: What Would You Do?
by U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Schroeder - February 10, 2015

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - In the Army, each Soldier has been told “no one left behind.” This can be applied to every aspect of the service.

One area several Soldiers tend to forget about is the home front. As much as I am sent on deployments, training missions or school courses, I still struggle with doing my job and not forgetting to help my family.

This brought me to the question of “merge or overtake?” Do I keep trying to make all the decisions miles to continents away or work with her?

My wife keeps the day-to-day operations of raising our children, paying bills, managing the vehicles, keeping the house clean, cooking food, and taking care of anything situation upon my departure. She has first-hand knowledge that time and life don't get put on hold, but sometimes surge forward faster than expected. She can get so busy with appointments, events, tasks and trying to find time to Skype or call me that she becomes overwhelmed and sometimes feels under or unappreciated.

One experience was shortly after I got married when I left for three months for a reclassification course eight hours from her. I tried to adapt and help with every issue or problem she faced. Instead of helping her, majority of the time ended up more difficult for my wife.

This led to my spouse playing catch-up with all the decisions that I made when trying to help. After having this experience, I told myself I needed to not overstep any boundaries and help where I could. This caused me to drift more and more toward doing less and less until she was giving me updates and me not making any decisions.

I am guilty of this on more than one occasion. I went from one extreme to the other; now when I am away from my spouse, I tend to make fewer decisions about situations back home and focus on myself. This is dangerous because thinking only about myself when away causes my better half to feel alone in decisions.

I am pretty good about being perceptive and realizing something is bothering my wife, but I am completely oblivious to when what is bothering my wife is me. When she tells me how she's feeling, it sinks in, and I realize I have not been doing what I promised her in our vows.

During my last deployment, I thought I had found the balance of knowing what to make a decision on and what to let her do. Unfortunately, after noticing she was getting stressed out again, she told me I had been making it harder by making the decisions in the areas I had no control in.

As much as I knew that she had stuff she had to do, in the back of my mind was the thought that everything would wait for me until I returned home. I knew better, but was extremely difficult and hit me hard watching my first son grow up on Skype without me there. For example, I was fortunate enough to see him stand up on his own and take his first three steps on Skype. I was so proud I wanted to pick him up, but then realized I couldn't and was depressed. It happened repeatedly before that seeing the pictures of his teeth coming in, eating hard food, playing with toys, laughing, but hit me hard when he started to walk.

We are told to be patient and realize life has continued to go on without us back home, but hard to keep a grasp of when you don't want to miss a single moment. I remember being told throughout the deployment to be patient and understand my family has their own lives and schedule in place, and not be discouraged if they don't have time to talk. My wife was told the same thing about me when she attended briefings from the Family Readiness Group and other unit officials. After she was done with the meetings, she would tell me what was said and show me some brochures or pamphlets about how to help her with me. This makes me think more emphasis is placed on preparing the family for the Soldier but just as much should be placed on preparing the Soldier for the family.

If it weren't for my family, I would not have the drive and motivation for accomplishing the mission and strive to succeed in classes. For example, when I was single, I was content in my career, still trying to progress through the ranks, but no real push to become a pilot. After I married my wife, I realized being content was not the best thing for my wife and family. I suddenly had more intent and drive to accomplish more. She kept telling me not to be scared to try and accomplish my dreams and I could do whatever I wanted. With that push and support, I started to move forward with the career progression that I had wanted to for years but didn't because I was afraid.

I could build a house. With the support of my family, I could build a skyscraper. What I am asking you is when you leave for school, training or deployment, don't forget about the home front. It is the best thing going for you so do not take them for granted and they will stay by your side. Make sure you do your best to help with whatever they need, be there for them, and make them feel they are not alone.

Remember, no one left behind, this applies to your better half. They can be the most powerful thing you have in your arsenal. So when you are not home, ask yourself “Merge or Overtake?”

By U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Schroeder
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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