Chaplains, ACS offer post-deployment aid to couples
The halves of this "Mizpah Coin" are exchanged by couples during a Coin and Covenant Ceremony conducted by the installation chaplaincy. The 3rd ID patch is on the opposite side of the coin. The scripture verse on this side of the coin is Genesis 31:49: "The Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent from one another."

<b>FORT STEWART, Ga.</b> - "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," according to an English proverb that can be traced back to 1602.

It's probably true that time spent apart can make you appreciate and care even more for a person, but long absences or constant absences can be hard on a marriage. Consequently, repeated, year-long deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a heavy toll on Soldiers and their spouses assigned to Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield. For this reason, Chap. (Col.) Bill Ralston, 3rd Infantry Division rear detachment chaplain, said Stewart-Hunter makes two viable sources available to help Soldiers re-unite with their spouses following re-deployment. One offers spiritual guidance via the installation chaplaincy; the other offers mostly secular classes for couples through Army Community Services.

Chaplain Ralston said the installation chaplaincy conducts Post-deployment Resilience Training for Warriors as well as marriage workshops that deal with how repeated deployments affect the spiritual side of marriage. Chaplains, he said, can counsel Soldiers and spouses about how they'll need to make changes following re-deployment because both husband and wife have had to adjust to the other's absence. Both have changed in little and sometimes major ways, he said. They have to re-acquaint themselves with each other and learn to love that person the way he or she is now. Chaplain Ralston emphasized this adjustment takes time.

The chaplaincy also offers what he called "strong bond events" or retreats for couples to get away together without the children to attend biblically-based classes on strengthening marriages. Another form of assistance, he said, is their Marriage 101 classes, which he described as "making good marriages stronger." One more way the chaplaincy helps couples readjust is through weekly worship services. He said strengthening your relationship with God is one of the best ways to strengthen your relationship with your spouse.

Chaplain Ralston explained that for those of faith, a marriage is more like a covenant than a legal contract. A covenant, he said, is a promise made between two people with God as their witness. The added dimension of God being part of the marriage covenant makes wedding vows all the more important, he added.

He said that Chap. (Maj.) Michael Reeves, installation chaplain, is the one behind the Coin & Covenant ceremonies in which spouses participate by making pledges to each other while exchanging half of a coin that has a 3rd ID patch on one side and a scripture verse on the other: "The Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent from one another," Genesis 31:49. The pledge and coin exchange are made between the deploying spouse and his or her husband or wife before he or she leaves, he said. After re-deploying, another ceremony is held in which the two come together to put the two halves of their coin together.

"Ceremonies like this remind people it is important to remain faithful," Chap. Ralston explained. "It's a very poignant moment for the people taking part in this ceremony."

The program offered by ACS is a multifaceted program called "Preparing to be together," and according to Linda Mosley, mobilization/deployment manager for Stewart-Hunter ACS, the information is not only useful for couples but extended Family Members who've assisted with child care and supported the spouse left behind because of deployment.

She said the classes are sometimes taught at the unit, sometimes at Club Stewart or Hunter Club. And because many spouses and especially extended Family Members do not live in the area, "Preparing to be together" is available online through the Team Stewart Web site at www.stewart.army.mil.

Editor's note: Look for more in depth information about the ACS reintegration training program in next week's The Frontline.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16