Reintegration series keeps families strong
December 18, 2008
<b><i>New program helps spouses, children understand, thrive during redeployment process </b></i>
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - More than 30 people crowded into a small room at the Main Post Chapel Annex here, Dec. 13, for an informative briefing to kick off the "Family Strong Series." The event was presented by 25th Infantry Division, Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC) and Schofield Barracks' Health Clinic.
Although the majority of those in attendance were subject matter experts, four spouses of Soldiers who are deployed or have recently returned from deployment listened attentively as Maj. Adelaido Godinez, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) Rear Detachment commander, explained the series' purpose.
"We are all here for you," said Godinez. "We will help you understand what it is like for your Soldier and prepare you as best we can for their return."
Godinez then shared personal accounts of his own redeployment, including the struggles he and his family went through.
"I was angry when I returned," said Godinez. "I felt I had left my Soldiers too early and experienced feelings of guilt for not being in Iraq."
Godinez explained the event was dedicated to explaining ways Soldiers cope and how family members can help returning Soldiers remain a healthy member of the family. Subject matter experts were also on hand to discuss issues particular to spouses and children and available community services.
"A lot of spouses aren't prepared for their Soldier's homecoming," said Godinez. "We are here to provide information to help every member of the family."
The four spouses then began the first of many personalized briefings.
Psychiatrist William Pettit, West Virginia University, spoke with a soft kind voice during "The Secret of Hope and Health" briefing and asked family members what questions and concerns they had for their Soldiers.
Many spouses stressed the importance of communication, and asked questions on how to safeguard children from the stress they feel, and for tips on uniting with their Soldier.
Pettit explained the idea of understanding one's self and the natural feelings that come along with living in a stressful environment.
"Our experiences are not caused by external circumstances," said Pettit. 'You have the power to control those thoughts by not giving them power."
Pettit explained how to find the ability to keep a peaceful feeling despite the challenges many family members face.
"This is the key to parenting, relationships and being a good Soldier," said Pettit.
The next briefing led family members on a quest to answer questions on expectations.
"Just like you, your Soldier has expectations for their return," said Sandy Crocker, mobilization and deployment specialist, Army Community Service (ACS). "But the one thing about expectations is you have to be flexible."
Crocker explained the length of deployment could harden the transition, stating many family members experience the habit of not having their Soldier present in their life.
"There is no magic wand, but there are techniques to ease the transition," said Crocker.
Crocker explained effective ways to communicate, engaged the participants in a group discussion, and presented possible scenarios of returning Soldiers and the impact it will have on daily life.
"It's going to be hard for me and my child when my husband returns," said Keri Coulson, family member. "This is helpful in understanding what we all may go through."
Hank Cashen, senior prevention specialist, ACS, and psychiatrist Capt. Kathy Kolacki, TAMC, provided a wealth of information regarding post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain disorder, including symptoms and various stress-management strategies.
"These symptoms are very common for someone who has experienced a traumatic event," said Kolacki. "We want the family members to understand what the Soldier has gone through and the reactions they may experience because of it."
The program also offered child-specific classes, as well as classes aimed to tackle financial issues, issues of transition and building social networks.
The extensive program allowed family members to experience all classes available, or set their own schedule to focus on specialized areas.
"We all understand what (family members) are going through," said Godinez. "But no reaction is the same and it is important to take steps to prepare for these scenarios.
"It's more than the techniques, but an understanding for both Soldier and spouse," he said.
The "Family Strong Series" will be held Jan. 10, 12 and 22, and Feb. 7, 9 and 12, at the Main Post Chapel Annex on Schofield Barracks, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
For more information, contact Letticia Rivera, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Family Readiness Support Assistant (FRSA), at <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.