By Ms. Emily Athens (IMCOM)November 5, 2009
SCHWEINFURT, Germany -- Soldiers returning from a deployment must reintegrate back into a normal military routine away from combat, but while they adjust to all the changes within the Army environment, they also often face changes on the home front.
"I think the most difficult aspect of a Soldier reintegrating is adjusting to the huge change that comes all at once. Literally overnight everything changes- their work environment, living quarters, even the climate- and it's a lot for them to process," said Carolyn Hudson, family member of the 9th Engineer Battalion who, with four children, is coping with a third deployment alongside her husband.
The Schweinfurt community houses numerous agencies and resources ready and willing to support families readjusting to life together. Unit chaplains, the Behavioral Health clinic, and Army Community Service all stand by to help the returning Soldiers and their families. But first, healing wounds and moving forward starts with the family and, the best medicine is communication.
"Soldiers and their families need to be prepared for any challenges put before them when reintegrating and communication is most important. Growing together is what makes it easier," said Chaplain (Maj.) Sam Dunaway, unit chaplain for the 9th EN Bn and 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment.
Dunaway, who has endured three deployments with his family, explained the possible challenges of reintegrating back into a home to include changes that have occurred during the duration of a deployment, role reversals, understanding what each other has gone through, and emotional strife.
"It's important to recognize that both were involved in their own battles. Coming back together ... they need to find balance. Talk to each other, support each other, reconnect," he said.
The balance, Dunaway said, comes from understanding the needs of each partner.
"Men need honor, respect, trust and devotion while women need safety, security, cherishing, and companionship. Understanding this is tremendous," he said, adding that because of these differing needs, families are encouraged to be flexible, accommodating, uplifting and patient.
Whether this is the family's first deployment, fifth deployment, with children, or without, Dunaway stresses that preparation, communication, and understanding are the key components to a healthy and successful reintegration.
According to Hudson, everyone can intentionally influence the reunion with their Soldier and head in a positive direction; it just takes a little "grace and understanding."