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Call it Sgt. Murphy’s law, a military version of the truism, "If anything can go wrong it will — while your spouse is deployed."

Every military spouse has a story. Some have entire sagas, a series of unfortunate events worthy of Lemony Snicket: Vehicles refuse to start; the children swap strep-throat infections; one develops pneumonia; the septic tank overflows; mice invade the kitchen.

Fortunately, we have Hope — and Julie — military spouses who remind us there is life and learning during difficult family separations.

Hope Metzler, an Army wife, created www.DeploymentLesssons.org, a blog that asks for one- or two-sentence summaries of lessons learned during deployment.

As a Family Resource Group Leader at Fort Carson, Colo., Hope posted a similar question on the FRG Web site during a 2003 deployment.

"What I got back was surprising — amazing," Hope said. "Some of it was hysterical."

Such as: "I have learned that sometimes mommy is the one who needs a time out."

Others were more serious.

"They learned they had strength they didn’t realize," she said. "That they could raise the kids on their own, and that they did love their husbands as much as they thought they did."

Hope said it was "an amazing outpouring and not a single negative thing in there; and we had some tough things during that deployment, some really tough circumstances."

Now living in Germany, Hope said she created the Deployment Lessons site to keep the learning process alive and share it with a broader audience.

Military spouses and parents can log on and post their insights, as well as read, comment and vote on lessons from other bloggers. Posts come from all military services and all over the world.

Air Force wife Julie Kirschbaum had a similar idea for spouses of deployed airmen at her base, except the stories were shared in person.

"Our base does a deployed spouse’s dinner once a month for the families of deployed service members," Julie said by e-mail. "They get to be a little routine … and if your spouse is gone for a while, that gets old."

"I was thinking, ‘How can we lighten these up?’ And then I recalled the awful, but now funny, experience I had when my husband was gone for a year. It might be fun to hear these stories and look on the brighter side of life."

At the next gathering, Julie said she told one of her stories, involving he three kids, a dog, a cross-country drive, a broken van and some lessons learned.

"That broke the ice, and several told their stories after that," Julie said. "One story was a romantic one of how the couple met" while deployed together.

"The stories were a good addition to the usual briefings (spouses) get from family advocacy, chaplains, and other agencies," she said.

Julie’s "awful, but now funny" tale points out that difficult experiences look different in retrospect.

Similarly, Hope said she wants to offer spouses an opportunity to think through their deployment experiences and to recognize personal growth.

"My hope is that one little click will make someone smile," she said, "that this is a place to capture those moments in the deployment that were thought-provoking, humorous or poignant."

A little hope and a little help go a long way. An Army wife named Lisa posted this deployment lesson: "I learned that you can’t do it all by yourself, no matter how hard you try, and it’s okay to ask for help."

Read Julie’s story on the Spouse Calls blog, http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls , and see www.deploymentlessons.org to read or contribute.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at spousecalls@stripes.com and see the Spouse Calls blog at http://blogs.stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls.


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