Navigating a loved one’s military deployment

When a member of the military is deployed, it is challenging not only for the service member, but also for family members, especially during the holidays. Providing support to individuals and their family members currently serving is a meaningful way to impact and uplift each employee and their wellbeing.

“My wife, Stephanie, is a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and has been serving for 17 years. Her unit has been deployed since March of 2019 so it will be nearly a year before I see her again,” said Ariana Bostian-Kentes, Learning and Development Manager in the Department of Human Resources. Ariana has been with King County since August 2019.

Stephanie serves dual roles as a Behavioral Health Officer and as the Executive Officer for her Unit, the 1972nd Combat Operational Stress Control (COSC) out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Serving in the Army Reserve usually requires her to report to military drill exercises monthly and engage in up to month of in-the-field training each year. She is currently deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Not only do I miss her, but it can be very stressful to have that constant concern in the back of my mind, wondering if my wife is safe,” Ariana said.

She adds that while each military spouse does their best to “handle deployments like champions,” they can still be a stressful time.

“Deployments are also incredibly challenging for service members and families, and just because the deployment of a service member is an expected part of the military lifestyle, it doesn’t make it any easier,” she said. “I have a whole year of birthdays, holidays, and other life events – both good and bad – that I have to navigate on my own and that my wife has to miss out on.”

It can be difficult for people to connect with military spouses and families, often assuming that talking about deployment and the challenges it brings will be painful or emotional to discuss. Ariana says that while it may be uncomfortable for some, it is something worth addressing because it recognizes the experience and sacrifice of military families.

“I find that especially when people are unfamiliar with the military, they can be uncomfortable asking me about my wife or even asking how I’m doing during the deployment,” she said. “I’d love it if people didn’t avoid asking questions like that and even better, if they acknowledged that what I and my family is experiencing is hard – that acknowledgement means a lot.”

“It’s important to talk about military families because we make up less than 1% of the U.S. population and especially when you’re part of a Reserve or Guard unit, that can feel really isolating.”

Highlighting military families and the support they provide their service members often goes unnoticed, but is an essential part of the military experience. Ariana supports her wife, but also her community, serving as leader of the 1972nd COSC Soldier and Family Readiness Group (SFRG). In this role, she helps foster an environment of support and wellbeing among soldiers and families to promote cohesion and mission readiness.

“Simply said, I serve as the point of contact for information, questions, and concerns from family members and I maintain the connection between them and our Unit Commander,” she said.

Ariana and Stephanie’s identities, as queer women in the military community, also impact their experiences, requiring them to navigate difficult and complex challenges. It is a situation other families face as well, due to race, gender, sexual orientation, and citizenship status. With this in mind, it is important that military families develop connections and find support among those who may share similar experiences.

“It’s so important to shine a light on communities like ours that are a part of the fabric of the County. There is usually a family member, or several, who support that service member in pursuing their goals and responsibilities in the military and we often go unrecognized for our important work behind-the-scenes,” Ariana said.

“I’m proud to be serving alongside my soldier in different ways, as her spouse, as the SFRG Leader, and as a member of the Board of Directors for the Modern Military Association of America.”