In 2013, Dionne Myhre’s husband was on his fifth deployment when she came across the idea of a deployment wall on Pinterest. These walls are an area where family members at home can hang items to stay connected to their service member and countdown their return.
“I can do that!” thought Myhre, a Navy spouse and blogger. With a sixth deployment on the horizon, she recognized that this might be a fun project to help her children during dad’s absence, especially now that they were older and understood what deployment would mean.
When she and her children shared their deployment wall on her blog, the post went viral. In fact, it was so popular that she created printables and crafts to help other military families during deployments. Her website, www.homemadeourway.com, has since grown to include organizational tools for purchase.
“I just knew how inspiring those walls can be especially when we are feeling lonely and miss them immensely,” Myhre said.
Deployment walls can be inexpensive and simple or more elaborate. Most walls include a clock with the servicemember’s time zone, a calendar or countdown of some sort, a map and a mail collector to send family letters in batches.
For more personal touches, families can include uniformed or family photos, the flag or military symbols, encouraging art or quotes and interactive decor, such as a countdown with a tactile component like candy, stickers or tearing a paper chain.
In addition to connecting with the deployed parent, a deployment wall can also help children with learning skills such as telling time, reading a map or writing skills.
As deployment walls grow in popularity, many military spouses who have small businesses creating art and decor have incorporated the idea into their product line. In particular, Etsy is filled with military family-owned businesses that offer these products.
One of those artists is Amanda Shortridge, a Navy spouse, who, with her husband Brandon, owns the Etsy shop Black Rose Wood Art. Shortridge’s first piece, a starry night tracker, came out of an effort to help her three children find a tangible way to cope with deployment. Each night, she and her children would add a sparkly gemstone sticker to a painting of the night sky as part of their countdown ritual. Their family enjoyed using it so much that they shared the idea with others.
“The ideas just snowballed, and with a combination of my painting and my husband’s woodworking skills, Black Rose Wood Art was born,” she said. Starry night deployment trackers are available in their Etsy store for purchase.
“Deployments are never easy – for the leaver or the left – so if there is any way to make it just a little easier on the children, I support it. So instead of getting the question, ‘Is daddy coming home today?’ every single morning, I instead got ‘Is it my turn to glue the star on today?’ And, to me, that’s priceless.”
The family’s deployment wall has now become a military wall, with trackers from previous deployments and military awards. For them, it serves as a way to recognize the sacrifices and accomplishments they have all contributed.
“When we can see the completed art trackers hanging on the wall next to his awards, we get a sense of inclusion. And the long times spent away from the people we love changes from something that happened to us to something we all made it through together,” Shortridge concluded.
Steps for building a deployment wall
- Check out Myhre’s post on deployment walls or Pinterest for design ideas.
- Choose a space in your house to hang items. Consider height if children will be participating. Make sure there is space for a small table if you want to include extra items. If you will be taking it down after deployment, use command hooks and tabs to hang items.
- Purchase items such as a clock to show the deployed family member’s time zone, a countdown tracker and hanging folder for mail. You can also include a whiteboard or post-it notes to write down things you want to tell your servicemember. Consider including countdowns to special days as well such as Advent calendars, vacation money piggy banks, or birthday signs.
- Design or order labels for each section and attach to the pieces. Collect any photos or branch emblems you will hang.
- Hang items and talk about each piece with your family. Use over deployment to countdown and connect with your deployed soldier, Marine, airman or sailor.