Dear Coast Guard Family: Tips and resources for times of deployment or separation

Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.

Families reunited aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton after the cutter returned home following a 60-day deployment, April 5, 2018. Stratton crewmembers sailed nearly 15,000 nautical miles during the multi-mission patrol conducting counter drug operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and serving as a search and rescue platform off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi.

“To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a service member who hasn’t been home in 365 days. To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mom who captures every moment of her baby’s life that her husband is missing. To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the wife that has waited by the phone while her husband is on a mission. To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are saying good-bye the morning of a deployment.” – Author Unknown

Such powerful words on the value of time. Time – it’s a funny thing, isn’t it? Sometimes passing too quickly. Sometimes too slowly. And, it never feels more evident than when you’re facing or experiencing time away from the one that you love. I’ve written about my experiences with deployment and the importance of resilience – “I know what it’s like to stand on a pier, holding our children, while watching a cutter disappear into the distance. And, I know that as the cutter moves towards the horizon or as the plane departs, I will have to pick up our children and walk away. In that moment, I know that I have the ability to make the difference. I comfort, I reassure, I stand strong.” But, how do I spend my TIME? If you’re experiencing a deployment or separation, here’s some things that I’ve found to be helpful:

Petty Officer 1st Class Evan Means, a crewmember aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Resolute, hugs his mother Debi Means, after returning home to St. Petersburg, Florida, Saturday, April 28. The Resolute crew returned after a 71-day deployment focused on training, and drug and migrant interdiction missions. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson)

  1. Find your passion. My passion is YOU – I LOVE serving and supporting the Coast Guard community! What’s your passion? Perhaps it’s volunteering at a local animal shelter, painting, gardening, or starting a Coast Guard spouses’ club. Whatever it may be, pouring yourself and your talents into something that you love and enjoy is so rewarding. My hope is that you are able to live a life that you love.
  2. Connect with your community. Whether through social media, the local community, or a Coast Guard spouses’ club, connecting with others can provide a great support system!
  3. Set a goal(s). Maybe you’re seeking to focus on your health, organize your home, a craft project, a class, learning a foreign language, paying off debt, or finding unique ways to strengthen your relationship across the miles. Working towards a goal is a great way to spend your time!
  4. Have some fun. It seems simple, but having something to look forward to can make all the difference! As the mother of three precious children (now ranging in ages from 4 to 15), providing an outlet for them – something that brings them comfort or joy — has been so important … taking a walk together, a movie/game night snuggled on the couch, or writing a letter/coloring a picture for daddy. I also love the idea of a “deployment bucket list” – from making s’mores, to visiting a museum (for free), or exploring a National Park (also for free), there are so many possibilities for children and adults!
  5. Reach out whenever you need to. You aren’t alone – support is available. A listing of resources can be found below.

The Coast Guard Ombudsman Program is a command program intended to improve communication between the command and Coast Guard families. Coast Guard ombudsmen are communication links, provide information and referral services and act as advocates for family members. You can contact your ombudsman through the Ombudsman Registry.

CG SUPRT provides assessment and short-term counseling for a wide range of issues such as stress, communication, family problems, relationships, parenting, anxiety, depression, work-related concerns, alcohol, substance abuse, as well as other issues that may be impacting your well-being.  Counseling sessions are available in-person as well as via telephone, video and chat. Services can be requested by calling 855-CG SUPRT (247-8778) or by visiting (select “My CG SUPRT Site” and enter “USCG” as the password)

Chaplains are available to provide confidential counseling and professional referrals. To contact your district Chaplain, please call 1-855-USCG-CHC (872-4242)

For those looking for information about the support programs and services available to Coast Guard military and civilian personnel, family members, and retirees – we now have an app for that, the USCG HSWL Mobile App.

Chief Petty Officer Andrew French, a boatswains mate aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sherman (WHEC 720), a 378-foot high endurance cutter homeported in Honolulu, kisses his wife after returning home after a 76-day patrol to the Bering Sea, Jan. 23, 2018. This homecoming was the last time Sherman will return from deployment as the crew prepares to decommission the ship in March, after nearly 50 years of meritorious service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle/Released)

The Coast Guard Yellow Ribbon Program promotes member readiness and resiliency by connecting members and families with timely information and resources throughout the reserve component deployment and reintegration cycle.

Sesame Street for Military Families is a free, bilingual (English and Spanish) website where families can find information and resources on military-specific topics – including deployments.

Through Operation Kid Comfort, volunteers at the Armed Services YMCA create custom-made photo transfer quilts and pillows to help with the separation of deployment. Operation Kid Comfort is offered to active duty children and created by loving volunteers at branch locations across the country.

United Through Reading connects military families facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together.

A Story Before Bed is giving away free recording to parents in the U.S. military who are spending time away from their kids. provides free portrait sessions for military families who are facing a deployment where the service member will be gone for 120+ days and photographs of newborns who are born when the father is unable to be present at the birth due to a deployment overseas.

Through a partnership with Blue Star Families, Caribu is donating free subscriptions to their interactive educational platform. This award-winning platform allows parents, extended family, and mentors to read and draw with children when they’re not in the same location.

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