Spouses of deployed Soldiers learn to cope
December 14, 2011
BAVARIA, Germany -- Is anyone ever really prepared to have to explain to a child that his or her daddy is deployed? You want to assure the child that daddy is safe and daddy will be home soon. How does a mother convince her child of these things when she is not truly convinced herself?
Deciding the right words to say to a child was a topic of discussion from Dec. 3-5 at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany, during a Deployed Spouses Retreat where 15 spouses from the 527th Military Police Company, 709th MP Battalion., 18th MP Brigade, created a strong bond to work through common struggles regarding the deployment of their loved ones.
Reene Blackaby, a military spouse from Grantz, N.M, commented on what she tells her daughter during her husband's absence. She said, "I tell her daddy has to be gone because he is helping a whole lot of people," said "He's gone for a reason, not because he doesn't want to be with us, but because he is doing something extremely important and other people need him."
Kelly Philmon, a military spouse from Opelika, Ala., tells her children it takes a special kind of person to do what your daddy does and you should be very proud of him and proud of yourself for being able to go through this."
Military spouses constantly make sacrifices in support of their loved ones during long deployments. Many homes seemingly convert into single parent homes while juggling school, children and work. This can take its toll on families and the 527th MP Co. decided to bring the spouses of their deployed Soldiers together where they could talk about grief, guilt, stress and forgiveness.
"I hope they come together with more unity and they find strength within themselves and collectively as a group," said Capt. Robert Rivers, the 709th MP Bn. chaplain. "I hope they know a lot of their feelings and emotions are valid and they are not alone."
It becomes a conscious decision to stay in the military and continue the lifestyle that it inevitably provides. As with any other style of life, there comes periods of stress on the marriage, pressure on the children and possible guilt within the spouse.
The 527th MP Co. has endured a deployment that has been tough on the Soldiers and their Families. Lt. Col. Roger Hedgepeth, the 709th MP Bn. commander, thought a retreat in a safe place away from home would be beneficial for the spouses who are left behind. The event would provide an opportunity to deal with the tragedies that have happened to the unit, and where they can express themselves and hopefully get a little bit of healing.
The 527th MP Co., stationed in Hohenfels and Ansbach, is currently deployed with the mission of providing training and mentorship to the newly assigned Afghan Uniformed Police while ensuring the safety of the local population.
"Over the course of six months they have suffered four killed in action and numerous wounded in action," said Rivers.
The importance of the retreat is to allow the spouses an opportunity to express their grief and their personal stresses in an open forum which normalized many of their emotions that may have otherwise been kept hidden.
Spouses of these deployed Soldiers are given the chance to express their stress, pressure and guilt during the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) which is designed for strengthening marriages and families.
"Learning to deal with the grief is most beneficial to me because I don't think I have completely started to get over the shock of what happened with loosing the other guys and the other guys getting hurt," said Blackaby. "I think I am going to be able to start accepting it and moving onto the other stages of grief even though I didn't lose my husband."
Additionally, the deployed spouse retreat also gives spouses of deployed soldiers the opportunity to develop relationships with other spouses who can understand and relate to each other's feelings and experiences.
"Having relationships with other spouses makes it one hundred times better and easier because they relate," said Xavier Tippie, a military spouse and native of Houston, Texas. "I didn't really understand the importance of spousal bonds until I moved here because it is such a small community and you have to have these relationships in order to make it through everyday life."
"I made some really good friends here that got me through every single day and it's amazing, I love them very much," she added.
"This has made me more appreciative of my husband and all the Soldiers and what they do downrange," said Adriana Standifer, a military spouse from San Antonio, Texas. "It makes me feel better knowing we have our military family here that we have made with the other spouses, reminding each other that we are a family."