Fighting Fair
Dr. Ken Fowler makes a point about "bonding fighting" with Dr. Amy Handy (stands left) during the Marital and Relationship Conference held at USAG - Miami’s MWR Conference Room. The conference is part of an overall effort by the Garrison Family Advocacy Office to strengthen the relationships in military marriages and pre-marriages to give them the tools to survive life in service to the nation.

U.S. Army Garrison Aca,!" Miami is promoting strong military families by sponsoring several programs, national and local, to give servicemembers and DoD employees the tools to develop a strong marriage.

Joe Walker, garrison family advocacy program manager, arranged for more than 20 military and civilian couples to participate in two separate programs, a Marital and Relationship Conference and Aca,!A"A Weekend to Remember,Aca,!A? both at no charge and one with free day care.

The weekend conferences were filled with classes, speakers and workshops designed to foster better communications between married and almost-married pairs. The benefit to the military is obvious, Walker said.

Aca,!A"When you are talking about marriage counseling you are talking about prevention,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Anything that you can do to ensure the safety and wholeness of a family helps ensure readiness for the mission and helps the families know that we are here for them, the greater military family.Aca,!A?

Cdr. Champee Sall and her husband Jonathan, both with the U.S. Coast Guard, agree that military life requires a strong bond based on friendship, respect, support, trust and love.

Aca,!A"Because of the expectations from both partners to take over the reins when the other is deployed,Aca,!A? Champee said, Aca,!A"military life does require both partners to sacrifice a lot of things; perhaps a career for one spouse, stress on the children when you pull them out of school and have to make new friends, moving to new locations every 1-4 years Aca,!A| If the marriage is not strong, they will not be able to survive it.Aca,!A?

The advice they would give to newly-married or engaged couples' Aca,!A"Be each other's best friend,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"I agree with everything my wife said -- that's the secret to a happy marriage!Aca,!A? Jonathan adds.

Aca,!A"That is one reason I think these programs are so important,Aca,!A? he said, Aca,!A"to help families remember how to function as a system,Aca,!A? Walker said. Both programs support that goal.

Aca,!A"Basically the conference tries to do three things,Aca,!A? said Bill Wenneker, Field Representative for Family Life, who runs Aca,!A"A Weekend to Remember.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"It takes pre-marrieds and shows them what to expect, takes good marriages and makes them better Aca,!" to communicate deeper Aca,!" and for other marriages it makes a last-ditch effort to resolve those things that are failing.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"We care, and we consider them important,Aca,!A? Walker said. Not only for married couples but for those in relationships who are thinking about marriage. You donAca,!a,,ct have to be married to experience relationship issues.Aca,!A?

Seeing your marriage through different eyes can be very helpful, Wenneker said. Aca,!A"All marriages deal with the same communication issues, and in marriage, you are always moving, either toward isolation or towards oneness.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"I would advise an engaged couple to attend a marriage enrichment course,Aca,!A? said participant Capt Ryan Shaffer, Aca,!A"or at least to discuss their long term goals. That would help them understand if they are headed in the same direction. A strong marriage makes the hardships of military life easier because you have a partner you can rely upon.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"Here in South Florida it is difficult to identify people that need our assistance,Aca,!A? Walker said. The demographics of U.S. Southern Command are challenging, with members of every service, Department of Defense civilians and contractors living everywhere from Key Largo to West Palm Beach.

Aca,!A"ThatAca,!a,,cs nearly 100 miles and 3 hours from top to bottom,Aca,!A? Walker said. Despite the challenges, response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Program surveys, Walker said, have complained only that program should have been longer and indicated participants have already recommended it to their friends and colleagues. Aca,!A"We already have people calling us to sign up for the next one.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"My wife and I will attend, provided there is room for other couples who have not already attended,Aca,!A? Shaffer said. Aca,!A"I have already discussed this service provided by Miami Garrison with my Marines. I think the marriage enrichment course is a great opportunity for couples across the spectrum. All that is needed is a desire to make your relationship better.Aca,!A?

Preservation of healthy marriages and families is the focus of Family Life, whose motto is Aca,!A"Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow.Aca,!A? An oft-repeated point in the seminar was that healthy relationships require hard work throughout life.

"For myself, I would characterize a strong marriage as one that has good communication,Aca,!A? Shaffer said, Aca,!A"and I realized that (in my marriage) our communication needed to change.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"How many people spend $10,000 on their wedding, and nothing afterwards'Aca,!A? asked Wenneker.

Walker has even learned things himself.

Aca,!A"When you start looking at the military, the problems with deployment means that even when the service member returns home, sometimes they arenAca,!a,,ct fully engaged with the family, they are physically there but not mentally there,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Due to their job requirements, they have been so focused on their work they have forgotten how to engage with their families.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"If you have a soldier with a strong family, he or she is confident, better able to focus on the mission, and understands that he/she has two jobs, taking care of the nation and the family, and the Army will provide the tools to do both well,Aca,!A? he said.

One of those tools was a Briggs-Myers profile, which Champee said helped her to understand more about her own personality and how she deals with situations.

Aca,!A"I'm learning to be more patient with him because of that and finding a sense of humor instead of getting upset,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"In the long run, the little things really won't matter.Aca,!A?

The Garrison also provided much-appreciated child care for the event.

Aca,!A"Having child care really sealed the deal for me because that would have been a showstopper,Aca,!A? she said. Thanks for putting it on; it was a very worthwhile event that I would, and have already recommended to married couples.Aca,!A?

Walker is already planning for the future.

Aca,!A"We are probably going to hold another workshop prior to Thanksgiving,Aca,!A? he said, Aca,!A"because thatAca,!a,,cs a family-oriented holiday, and while family can be empowering, it can also be a very stressful time.Aca,!A?

-30-

Page last updated Mon August 10th, 2009 at 12:16