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Posts Tagged ‘reunion’

Chaplains are pretty busy during Annual Training season in the National Guard.  Tuesday I gave another suicide prevention class.  It’s a requirement that Soldiers get the presentation at least once a year.  The training focuses on the magnitude of the problem, how common issues can drive anyone to the point of despair, and that everyone can watch out for your battle buddy.

While many try to pin the Army suicide issue on multiple deployments, the majority of issues that drive people to suicide are common issues:  failed relationships, financial difficulty, and legal woes.  These are typical factors that we see in the civilian population, at schools, in factories, and even in the church.  PTSD is a factor in military suicide, but it is not the top issue that Time magazine or other media outlets want you to believe.

The fundamental issue to remember is that everyone can save a life.  You probably survived a breakup, be it in high school, college, or at work.  You probably understand what it is like to bounce a check or have a tough time making your paycheck last the entire month.  We are all in the same boat.  We all have the life experience necessary to help people at risk of suicide.

Remember and apply ACE: Ask, Care, Escort.

If you believe that someone is at risk of suicide, ask him/her about the problem.  Find out what is going on in the person’s life.  Directly ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.  Care by listening to the issue.  Find out what is causing the pain and suffering.  Why is the Soldier upset?  Finally, escort the Soldier to a resource.  That can be a chaplain, a medic, a counselor, an NCO, a friend, or a family member.

Don’t leave the person alone.  Make sure that he or she gets help.  It is okay to call a suicide hotline or wake up a supervisor, just don’t ignore the warning signs.

You don’t have to be a mental health counselor to apply ACE.  You don’t have to be an expert.  But you can practice these basic steps in suicide first aid.  Do your part to reduce suicide and help your friends.

If you need immediate assistance these suicide hot lines are always available:

Military One Source – 1.877.995.5247 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

 

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The headline was small and muted this month, but the Army reported 278 suicides for 2011.  That figure represents Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve components.  While that number may not immediately seem like good news, it is nearly a ten percent drop from 2010.  It is also the first time that number has declined in four years.

I understand why no one wanted to herald the news, but this should still be seen as a victory.  We are making an incredible difference in the lives of people.  Suicide prevention training has taken hold in the force and continues to grow.  Soldiers and families understand that it is okay to talk about deployment issues and concerns.  Stigma and fear continues to decline.  Counselors, medics, chaplains and battle buddies at every level are teaching service members how to address suicidal thoughts.  That being said, there is still more work to be done.

Broken relationships are still the number one reason that Soldiers commit suicide.  It is important that first line leaders sit down with service members at the first hint of marital conflict.  Make time to listen and discover how your Soldiers are dealing with the hardships of life.

Practice ACE:  Ask, Care, Escort.  Ask people how they are doing.  Care about their situation through listening.  Escort people to a community resource when they need help.

Military One Source is available 24/7.  You can call and immediately speak with a counselor or ask for a referral.  The operator will give you several local counseling options and assist you in making an appointment.  Service members can receive 12 free counseling sessions each year.  Military One Source can be reached at 1.800.342.9647.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to help those contemplating suicide.  You can call 1.800.273.TALK (8255) and be connected to a counselor.  Once you are on the lifeline, a person can decide to speak with a veteran or a civilian.

Army suicides are starting to decline.  Our efforts are bearing fruit in multiple arenas.  One year will may not establish a pattern, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

 

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My last deployment was very unique.  The mission was conducted by a combined joint task force.  That title may seem complicated on the surface, but it’s easy to explain.  Everyone worked together.  And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.  Every Army Soldier.  Every Navy Sailor.  Every Air Force Airman.  And every Marine.  Everyone also included multiple armies from across the globe.  Allies like the British, the French, the Germans, the Japanese, the South Koreans, and several others comprised the task force.

There were several ways to tell that the task force was different.  You could walk into the mess hall for lunch and see a rainbow of different uniforms.  You could separate the green Army uniforms from the blue Navy uniforms pretty easily.  You could also separate the white dress uniforms of the Japanese Navy from the green French Navy uniforms.  Conversations were another way to show our differences.  The Navy chief from Alabama or the Army Sergeant from Missouri, they each spoke in a different way.  So did our allies.

The book of Revelation shares an interesting phrase when it refers to heaven.  The phrase is repeated in several areas like 5:9, 7:9-10, 11:9, 13:7, and 14:6.  We hear that the assembly is comprised of “every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.”  A message like this is repeated several times to get our attention, but also for the simple fact that it is true.

Anyone and everyone can be saved.  That was the radical message of Old Testament prophets like Isaiah.  It was also the loving message of Jesus Christ.  The promise is found in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  That is an incredible promise.  It says that no one is beyond redemption in Christ.  It says that God cares for me and the African orphan.  It says that everyone is welcome through Jesus.

A mess hall full of people who wear different uniforms and speak different languages can be a great reminder of heaven.  But the real take away is that God loves everyone and they are all invited to make heaven their home.

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Military families and military couples frequently ask how they should reconnect once a deployment is finished.  Families and veterans should keep these five stages in mind.

Preparation.  Service members and families make plans for the return home.  Service members are still deployed, but folks begin to talk about their expectations and wants when they are reunited.  What do you want to eat at home?  Do you want a family get together in the back yard?  Can we take a cruise or take the kids to Disneyland?  Discussions focus on your return home and immediate plans.

Honeymoon.  This is just after the homecoming ceremony when your commander yells, “dismissed”.  The beautiful beginning starts when you get to hug and smooch on your loved ones who were waving signs and flags just minutes earlier.  This is the period when everything is right and perfect in the world.  Service members will go home, kick their feet up, and get some rest.  Relatives and friends are just happy to have their veteran home.  Couples frequently ask family to watch the kids so that they can have a romantic get away the first or second week home.  The honeymoon period can last days, weeks, and hopefully even longer.

Disruption.  This is when challenges starts to appear for families.  Arguments take place and voices start to get louder around the house.  Kids may challenge the order and rules that existed during the deployment because your warrior is back.  They may attempt to divide parents and get what they want instead of following the rules.  Arguments take place over new roles in the home.  The niceness and special attention that couples gave each other during the honeymoon period is now in short supply.  The veteran may be asked to perform an increasing amount of chores and tasks that weren’t important two weeks ago.  There is little or no tolerance in allowing your service member to sleep in each morning.  It’s time to get back to business.

Adjustment.  This is the time when you establish new roles, responsibilities, and goals.  Dad may not know about Friday evening walks at the lake, because this tradition started during the deployment.  Who will pick up the kids from school now that Mom is back?  The kids didn’t help fix dinner before the deployment, but it has been the norm for a year.  Will they continue to prepare meals?  Who will make sure that the kids finished their homework?  Who will tuck the children in bed?  All of these tasks were known during the deployment, but veterans may need to relearn, share, or change some household roles.

New Normal.  This is when changes are still being negotiated and are slowly becoming patterns.  The roles may not be the same as before the separation, but the military family is back in action.  Remember that every deployment is different and the time to adjust will vary also.  Your first deployment was different from your second.  Try not to compare the reunions with each other.

Again, every military couple and family will adjust to reunions in a different way.  But keep these stages in mind when warriors come home.  Soldiers should take the time to rest and relax from that long combat tour.  Don’t sell your leave.  Take it and enjoy the down time at home.  Couples should rekindle the romance that stood the test of time.  Try to catch a Strong Bonds marriage retreat.  And kids deserve some quality time with their warrior as well.  Make each moment count now that your warrior is home.

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