The other day a friend of mine emailed to ask for deployment advice.  It wasn’t the first time her husband deployed, but it was the first time her young child started expressing his stress through anger and behavior changes.  My kids never acted out their deployment stress, maybe because my daughter was too young to understand and my son is an emotional hoarder.  My son bottles everything up, and it’s difficult to know what he’s feeling or thinking.  He’s an internalizer, very cerebral, and you almost have to trick him into talking.  But like me, one way to get his mouth moving is through the written word.

When my husband was gearing up for his 2nd deployment, I felt I needed a strategy to explain to my children why our life was about to change.  And even though I had been through a deployment before, I never felt I coped with that first one very well so I decided I needed a strategy for myself as well.  I needed books.  Lots of them.  So I hit up Amazon and the library, and for the next year I read as many deployment-related books as I could, both for children and adults. 

I have definite preferences when it comes to books so this list may not appeal to everyone.  I love reality-based fiction.  I love honest memoirs I can relate to.  I love conversation starters.  I love stories that teach my children hidden messages.  I love humor.  I have no desire to read what I call “instructional” books for mil spouses so you’ll find none of those on this list.  (I’ve been a mil spouse for nearly a decade.  If I don’t know it by now, I either never will or it’s not worth knowing.)  But if that’s what you’re looking for, there are some goods ones out there from what I hear. 

Out of all the books I’ve read, it was extremely difficult to choose just 10 so I’m also including a list of honorable mentions.  (Honorable mentions include books that aren’t specifically about deployments but military family life in general.)  Here are my…

Top 10 List of Books About Deployment for Military Families  

10)  The Wishing Tree by Mary Redman
A children’s picture book about a little girl who wants to find a way to support her father while he is deployed.  She decides to make a wishing tree by writing her hopes and prayers on yellow ribbons that she ties onto the tree branches.  A cute story and a great idea to do with kids.

9)  Military Life: Stories and Poems for Children by Various Authors

This is a lovely collection of stories and poems for military brats.   Not all of the entries are about deployment.  The book covers military life in general so it’s pretty versatile. 

8)  You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

This is a collection of beautifully written short stories (yes, this means it’s fiction) about Army families living at Fort Hood. I read this book in 2 days and was so sad when I was finished because I didn’t want it to end.  The only reason this book isn’t closer to my #1 is because I wasn’t crazy about one of the stories that was about a mil spouse who was cheating on her husband during deployment.  But despite the fact that I don’t want the general public to think that all mil spouses cheat on their husbands, I’m well aware that it does happen and therefore fair game to be openly discussed.  The book also sparked an interesting conversation with a mil spouse friend of mine.  She didn’t like it.  I did.  But it sure was fun discussing it.

7)   Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantraut
Another children’s picture book.  This one is about staying connected during a parent’s deployment.  I’ve read this to my own kids countless times, and they love it. 

6)  Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

This is a novel about a teenage girl coping with her father’s deployment.  I loved this book.  But make sure you have a box of tissues close at hand.  (Click here to read my review of Alice Bliss.)

This book simply fascinated me.  It’s the story of a military base that housed military spouses and their families while their husbands fought in Vietnam.  The author is a military brat who lived at Schilling Manor while she waited for her father to return from Vietnam.  It’s so interesting to compare and contrast the waiting wives of the 60’s to our current lives on the home front.

Young children have such a difficult time expressing their thoughts and feelings about deployments.  This book includes coloring sheets, art projects, fun activities, and wonderful tips that kids can understand.  It’s even broken into 4 sections: Getting ready for deployment, Deployment, Getting Ready for Reunion, and Reunion.  What a great way to get kids communicating!

Honest and incredibly well-written.  Not much more needs to be said.  A must-read for mil spouses.  (And by the way, the author is also one of the contributing writers for #9 on this list.)

2)  I Love a Man in Uniform: A Memoir of Love, War, and Other Battles by Lily Burana

Another honest, well-written book that speaks for itself. 

1)  Confessions of a Military Wife by Mollie Gross
This book does for mil spouses what The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy does for moms-to-be.  Sometimes we just need some comic relief.   I smiled, I nodded in agreement, I blushed, I laughed out loud.  Mollie Gross is hilarious.
Honorable Mentions:
For Adults:
For Children:
So chime in mil spouse friends!!!  Have you read any of these books?  Love ’em or hate ’em?  What books top your list?

13 Comments on Top 10 List of Books About Deployment for Military Families

  1. I read You Know When the Men are Gone. It was the first deployment related book that I read and I really enjoyed it. It too did not like the short story about the cheating spouse, but I know that sometimes it reality. I didn't want it to end! Confessions of a Military Spouse is next on my list so I'm glad to see you recommend it!

  2. Um, I wish I had seen the tissues note for Alice Bliss before I decided to read it on an airplane. I was practically turning purple trying to keep tears in and not sob. I do not think the two guys in my row heading to Vegas for a bachelor party would appreciate a sobbing milspouse at their side. Man oh man!

    And Confessions of a Military Wife rocks my socks off.

  3. Thanks for these suggestions. I can't believe my husband is deployed and it never crossed my mind to read any of these books. I can't wait to get started!

  4. Wow, this is a genre I never even considered. We have TONS of military families up here in Alaska, and I'll have to bookmark this list for some of my friends. Great post.

  5. So awesome! As a fellow military wife, I'm incredibly thankful that I found this page. I'm going to order Confessions of a Military Wife right this second. Thanks for the recommendations!

  6. I don't know if you all have seen this resource, but if not, it's a catalog of resources, including books for children of every age with parents in the military. It's got quite a bit of info on each book/resource to help you decide if it's worth getting for your family. I would also encourage those of you who have younger children in child care to share your children's book recommendations with your child's caregiver/teacher. That will not only help your child but can also help the other children, and even the teacher, better understand what your child – and the rest of your family – are experiencing.

  7. Hi, I stumbled upon your blog while researching books that pick this theme: Courage and Unity During Times of War. It's the them for the One Maryland One Book 2012 program. I'm adding Waiting Wives to the books titles I'm submitting as we gather titles — if you have any suggestions, please feel free to forward them to me. It's meant for mostly an adult audience, but should have appeal to high school students too. Thanks!

  8. Hi, I just found your blog and appreciate that you are sharing books you have found helpful for military families. As a long-time educator and military mom and grandma I have witnessed the stressful effects separation can have on families and how stories can help to ease the loneliness and anxiety. During my son's second deployment with the Minnesota Air National Guard, his youngest daughter sent her beloved teddy bear to him in a care package to help her dad feel less lonely. This heartwarming family story was the inspiration for my children's book, "Boo Boo Bear's Mission The True Story of a Teddy Bear's Adventures in Iraq." The award-winning book was illustrated by children of military and civilian families and continues to draw attention from military kids, their parents, military organizations, educators, and book lovers. I'd like to recommend "Boo Boo Bear's Mission" as another excellent resource for the families you connect with. The book is available through and the publisher Beaver's Pond Press. I invite you to check out Boo Boo's website: and Facebook page: Thank you!

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