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Posts Tagged ‘military spouse’

Military Hands

Every marriage is precious in the sight of God.  It is an institution that began in Eden and continues with us as a gift from our Creator.  We often forget that marriage was meant to be a blessing for humanity.  When Jesus was asked about divorce in Matthew 19, he pointed back to the creation story in Genesis. Perhaps the people needed a lesson on the original intent of matrimony.  Here Jesus reminds the crowd that the marriage of a man and woman was meant to be permanent, a bond of eternal love and devotion.  It is a lesson that we still need today.

No marriage is easy.  They all take work.  They all require sacrifice and commitment.  Military marriages require all the above plus an extra dose of patience, a heap of faithfulness, a double batch of kindness, and a strong shot of self-control.

This week served as a reminder that military marriages are especially difficult.  A recent investigation by the Associated Press showed that 30 percent of military commanders who were fired since 2005 lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses.  The list includes sexual harassment, adultery, and improper relationships.  These 78 commanders lost more than their rank.  They lost more than their position on a military post.  They lost their families.

We all have distractions in our marriage, but military couples truly have an extra burden.  They endure deployments, reuniting as a couple and a family once the deployment is finished, frequent separations for training missions, plus a litany of long days and late nights for regular work to get done.  It is tough to make a marriage like this succeed.

When I completed the chaplain officer basic course at Fort Jackson, drill instructors had the highest divorce rate on post.  Soldiers with this job had an 85% divorce rate.  That number shocked me back then and it still does today.  When you get past the initial surprise, the percentage made sense.  These drill sergeants arrive at work before 5 am, wake up the recruits, train hard all day, get home around 7 or 8 pm, and repeat this kind of schedule until graduation day.  Where is the time for your spouse?  When can you enjoy your family?  With schedules like this, who would be surprised with such a high divorce rate?

Don’t focus on the headlines.  Don’t focus on the gloom and doom.  Military marriages can and do work.  Part of the solution is making time for each other.  Stay current with your spouse.  Attorneys, doctors, social workers, and yes, even chaplains, are required to get a set number of continuing education hours each year.  This is encouraged to keep professionals current on the latest ways of helping those they serve.  We should show the same devotion to stay current in our marriages.  Don’t allow your relationship to wither on the vine.

Remember the gift that God has given you.  Your marriage is meant to be a blessing.  Also remember how God intends us to use the gift of marriage.  May Christ continue to strengthen your eternal bond of love and devotion.

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If you are looking for a cause that needs your prayer and support in 2013, look no further than the American Soldier.

Even though the surge ended this year, there are 68,000 service members who are still fighting in Afghanistan.  While the headlines talk about budget cuts, college football games, and Hollywood celebrities, their stories are often untold and forgotten.

These are America’s warriors who have left their homes and families to defend our nation.  These are the college students who cancelled classes when their nation called.  These are the fathers and mothers who missed a child’s first steps at home.  These are the veterans who have dodged bullets and bombs to stay alive.

Remember them in 2013.  Remember those who are fighting and sacrificing for you.  Remember military spouses.  Remember military families.  Remember them in your prayers and your efforts.    Remember the 68,000.

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Last weekend was great.  It was Sunday morning and the conference room was full of military couples.  People were smiling.  Husbands and wives were holding hands.  Others just kept their arms around each other.  I could tell that folks did their “homework” and made time to reconnect.  The dynamics of the room had changed.  There were no folded arms or frowns like the day before.  The room was full of happy people.  These marriages were stronger, satisfied, and renewed.

As a co-leader, it is great to see couples learn new skills and rekindle their romance.  The big “homework” assignment for Saturday night is to take your spouse on a date.  Both must agree on the details and craft a plan for the night together.  Additionally, every couple needs to treat their spouse like a friend, have fun, reconnect, and spend time listening to one another.  Why couldn’t every homework assignment be this good?

No matter if you attend a marriage retreat or a marriage enrichment seminar like this, we all need the reminder.  Instructors and attendees must hear the message alike.  Relationships are important.  Our marriages need to be nurtured and strengthened.  Take time for each other.  When our marriages were young and new, we never spent time apart.  Now, it is difficult to find a quiet evening to talk.  Make time for each other.  Remember why you fell in love.  Dates don’t have to be expensive, they just need to happen.

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Your soldier finally made it back from the deployment.  The homecoming ceremony is over.  The banners and bunting are put away.  The confetti is gone.  Your warrior is home with 90 days of leave.  Now what?

Here are a few tips on how to handle your soldier at home.

Communicate like a couple.  This will be rusty at first.  You have both changed during the deployment.  You are more independent and your warrior still needs to adjust back into the family.  Remember that you will hear lots of military jargon and abbreviations.  They will make no sense to you whatsoever.  It is okay to turn your head and say, “I don’t know what you just said.  Did you just speak in Martian?  Is that some kind of Army lingo you picked up during the deployment?”  Be ready for the soldier to talk like a soldier.  Sentences may be short and choppy.  In return, speak up when that occurs.  Remind your warrior that you were not down range.  Apply grace and compassion in moments like this.  Listen to the war stories and remind your soldier to hear the home stories as well.  Show love through humor and sharing.

Reunions take time.  Once the soldier is home, it will take time to reconnect.  You cannot flip a switch and return your family to 2011.  Expect things to go well.  There is normally a honeymoon period where everything is perfect because the family is back together.  This can last a couple of days or a couple of weeks.  It is different for each military family.  In time, challenges will start to surface.  The kids will act up during the worst possible time.  The dog will get sick.  Conversations turn into arguments.  Tempers will flare.  Snippy comments are exchanged and suddenly our once happy couple stops using titles like dear, baby, honey, or sugar toward each other.  Don’t growl at each other.  This is when you adjust to new roles and routines.  How did things function during the deployment?  Share what a typical day looked like and how the family needs to function.  Make the adjustments necessary.  Gradually, the new normal will be established at home, but prepare for a couple of kinks in the line.  Remember to demonstrate patience with each other.

Keep your activities.  Keep the fun events and activities that got you through the deployment.  Don’t give up the good stuff that kept you sane during the last year.  Several spouses will join a gym, have a girl’s night out with FRG friends, start a hobby, or join a book club.  Don’t throw them out because your warrior is home.  Likewise, soldiers may have taken college classes, maintained a fitness routine, attended Bible study, or enjoyed a movie night with battle buddies during the deployment.  Soldiers and spouses should keep the good stuff from the last year, but remember to maintain a balance.  Make time for each other and your family.  Don’t let activities and events get in the way of your reunion.  Protect the good stuff in a healthy way.

Each time I came home, my wife was very patient with me.  We felt that the second deployment was easier in some ways because we knew what to expect.  But there were different challenges from the first go around.  Military families need to know that every deployment and homecoming is different.  The issues that military families face are complex and varied.  Don’t expect the first to be like the second.  Make time to attend your reintegration briefings or Yellow Ribbon events.  They will offer practical ways to help you and your funny talking soldier.

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There is no doubt who has the most difficult job when a service member is deployed.  Military spouses win that one hands down!  They do the job of two people, wrangle kids, make sure that the household stays afloat, and everything else while their warrior is downrange.

Military spouses have a new way to find resources online.  Spouselink is made for the needs and interests of the military spouse.  It covers a wide variety of topics and has a splash of pop culture included.  So take it for a test drive, watch a video, read an article, or share information with another family member with the click of a button.

http://www.spouselink.org

 

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It is tough being single, especially in the military.  You want to find the right person and be happy in a relationship.  Nobody wants to have their heart broken or even worse, marry the wrong person.

There are two common problems with dating today.  First, too many people do not know what to look for when dating.  They go out on the dating scene with no expectations.  This is a matter of education and learning what to look for in your next relationship.  Second, people minimize problems when they are dating.  People focus on matters of the heart, fixing a person, or accept bad behavior when they should instead hit the eject button to avoid a serious crash and burn.

Army chaplains frequently offer a program for single soldiers called, “How To Avoid Falling for a Jerk(ette).”  This program is also known as PICK, premarital interpersonal choices and knowledge.  While that title sounds complicated, PICK allows soldiers to build healthy relationships and follow your heart without losing your mind!

It is designed to provide singles and singles-again of all ages with a plan for pacing a relationship and exploring the key areas that foreshadow what that partner will be like in marriage.  This way you have a roadmap and mile markers to guide you in your next relationship.

No one should settle for a jerk or a jerkette.  Learn what to look for and know when to run for the exit sign.  You deserve a safe, happy, and healthy relationship.

Check out the Love Thinks website at www.lovethinks.com and the Army Strong Bonds website at www.strongbonds.org.  You can find additional information on building healthy relationships and also learn where future seminars will be held in your state.

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May is National Military Appreciation Month.  This important month honors, remembers, and recognizes all military personnel and their families.  The month includes VE Day (8th), Military Spouse Appreciation Day (11th), Armed Forces Day (19th), and Memorial Day (30th).

This month we all have an opportunity to stop and reflect on those who have served throughout our history, those who currently serve, and their families.  There are several ways to help celebrate the month.  Take time to thank a veteran for his or her service.  Send a care package to someone who is currently deployed.  Donate money or time to a veteran organization.  Pray for a military family.

During the course of our nation’s history, over 90 million Americans have answered the call to serve in the armed forces.  Let us celebrate their devotion and the many sacrifices that they have made on our behalf.

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