Photo Credit: By Chaplain (1st Lt. Anthony Williams
Now that we are fi nally here at Camp Bondsteel, Soldiers are settling in to their new living areas. As I visit with our Soldiers and see the areas where they are living, I have discovered that they are trying to make it as much like home as possible. Soldiers have pictures on their desks and walls of family and friends back home. I have seen many laptops that have desktop pictures of family, favorite pets, and friends back home as well. Given enough time and resources (care packages, PX runs, etc.), Soldiers can make a room resemble what they have back home. I am sure that as family members back home you do the same thing while your sons, daughters, wives and husbands are deployed here to Kosovo. You keep pictures in prominent places to remind you of your loved one that is away from you. You have redone your schedules to make sure you have time to talk to your family member when they call. Who knew that seven to nine hours time diff erence would be such a challenge to communicate with your family? There are many other adjustments made in the family during this time, but all of them are temporary and that is what I would like to focus on in this section of the "Chaplain\'s Corner." Three areas that are important to Soldiers and their families while they are temporarily separated from each other are coping, commitment and communication. Coping. You have been doing that all along - even when you fi rst heard the news that your Soldier was going to be deployed. There is another term that you might have heard of - resiliency. These two are related, as they work together in our lives. Resiliency is the total makeup of the resources that we have to get us through diffi cult times in our lives and coping is the actual working out of those ideas that we come up with to make the situation better. I mentioned above the changes that have been made by both Soldier and family during this time apart. During this deployment there are going to be things that the Soldier will miss while they are away - particularly the celebration of Christmas. On the fi rst Christmas, God gave the world a great gift, his son Jesus Christ. The Christmas season, therefore, is an appropriate time to refl ect on the blessings we have received. I know in my life there have been many. This past year I graduated from seminary was accepted as a chaplain in the United States Army. I got to celebrate both my boys birthdays and my wife's birthday as well. My wife and I celebrated 17 years of marriage, which has had its ups and downs. That's right, I said it, the chaplain experiences diffi culties as well in marriage; that is why we can celebrate because God has blessed us in those good and tough times. The question then is how you are going to celebrate this Christmas season. Skype seems to be a popular tool here among the Soldiers. Maybe, while you are with friends and family, everyone could get together and Skype with their loved ones. I will encourage the Soldiers to do the same. As for the Christmas meal, we have plenty planned here on Camp Bondsteel. Commitment is the second area I wanted to touch on in this article. I have often told married Soldiers in conferences and individual counselings not to allow one experience to defi ne your whole time together as a couple. Do not allow this deployment to defi ne your whole relationship. Do not allow any one area that you are working on as a couple to overshadow the good times you have celebrated. On your wedding day you promised to your spouse a set of vows that you would keep just for them. In the Hebrew scripture there is a word often used - "checed," meaning faithfulness. It is your responsibility to keep those vows to your spouse. The last area is communication, which is important during this time. Recently I had a discussion with a friend who reminded me that it was only about 15 years ago while he was serving in the Navy that there was no Skype, e-mail that could be exchanged instantly or many of the other great tools we have today to communicate with families back home. The question I have for you is that, with all of the tools we have, is communication taking place or just a lot of conversations? Communication is the ability to gets ones message across to the other person with a feeling that you were understood. Communication is, as some might say, to peel back the layers of the onion to get at that core. This takes some time regardless of whether you are separated or not, and it takes practice. The communication tool that my wife and I use is called the Speaker- Listener Technique and it is presented in the Strong Bonds program that is taught by chaplains all across the Army. If you have further questions about this, I would be happy to explain further if you contact me via e-mail. You can also talk with a chaplain in your state that is trained in the Strong Bonds marriage program. In closing, I just want to say that I am thankful during this season for all the blessings that I have received. The greatest gift has been the opportunity to serve our Soldiers. I have made some friendships that would have never been possible without this mission. I will always cherish and remember these and the upcoming days with our Soldiers. Blessings to you during this Holiday season.