Couples, singles learn relationship skills during strong bonds retreat
March 27, 2009
WAIKIKI, Hawaii - Sumptuous crab legs, chocolate-covered strawberries, perfect Hawaiian sunsets, and tools that could save your marriage.
All could be found at the Strong Bonds Marriage/Singles Retreat held at the luxurious Hilton Hawaiian Hotel, here, March 19-21.
During this retreat, sponsored by Chaplain (Capt.) Aprill Bright, 45th Sustainment Brigade Rear Detachment, and Chaplain (Capt.) Daniel Cho, 524th Combat Service Support Battalion, married Soldiers learned techniques to improve or strengthen their marriages and single Soldiers learned what to look for in a prospective mate, as well as what to avoid.
When couples and singles arrived, they began what would be a three-day journey of learning for some, and healing and restoration for others. Daily workshops, complimentary meals, beach-view rooms, and child care were provided, so parents could focus on one another and on gaining all they could from the retreat.
"The retreat was geared towards Soldiers who were returning home from deployments and helping them readjust and reconnect with families and spouses," said Bright. "Our goal is to arm our Soldiers with all the necessary tools to succeed in marriage so that they can be mission ready."
The retreat also offered practical advice for single Soldiers.
"We want our single Soldiers to avoid certain pitfalls if they are desirous of becoming married one day," Bright said. "We want them to think things through and be sure that if they are headed towards marriage, they will have tools to help them navigate through marriage."
Staff Sgt. Veronica Suarez, A Company, 45th Special Troops Battalion (STB), said she appreciated the opportunity as a single Soldier to gain insight about herself.
"If you understand yourself, you will be better able to determine what is best for you in a relationship," said Suarez. "I enjoyed the personality test (Myers-Briggs), and just the opportunity to get away and learn as well as relax."
Pfc. Desiree Hammersley is a chaplain assistant with 311th Signal Command. She and her husband Adam have four children, ages 3-9. They welcomed the opportunity to focus on their marriage. Hammersley said she was excited to be a participant in an event that she usually helps to organize.
Adam stressed the importance of events like this for Soldiers and families.
"Soldiers cannot focus on their mission properly if their marriage is not strong or there are problems," said Adam. "You are not fully, mentally present at the mission site if you are thinking of problems back home with your wife."
John and Staff Sgt. Marielena Witten, 45th STB, have been married for five years. John said he took away a great deal from the conference, but what stood out in his mind was a session conducted by Cho.
"He taught us a simple technique for respecting each other when we are discussing an issue," John said. "My wife and I are a lot alike, and we are both strong-willed about making a point. We never thought about holding an object while talking and then passing it to the other when it is their turn to talk.
"It's a simple technique," he continued, "but I believe it will help us. When she has the floor, she will have my full attention. Then when it's my turn to talk, she will be focused on listening."
"We have a strong marriage, but this retreat will just make it stronger," said Marielena.
Soldiers should contact their unit chaplains to get dates for upcoming retreats.
<i>(Editor's Note: Shahnaaz Mason is a guest writer for the Hawaii Army Weekly, the post newspaper for U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.)</i>