FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The strength of Soldiers comes from the strength of their Families.
Family Safe is Family Strong, according to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center.

"Nothing could be truer. Keeping our Families strong and able to face the challenges of separation due to deployment or an unaccompanied assignment is the mission of the Fort Rucker Hearts Apart program," said Ruth Gonzales, Relocation Readiness Program manager.

Hearts Apart Families separated from their servicemembers can enjoy monthly activities with the support of the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities. Bowling, fishing, swimming and exercise classes are just a few of the activities Families can participate in.

"Families also attend activities in the local communities, such as the Enterprise Children's Festival and Family Day at Camp Victory in Samson, Ala.," Gonzalez said. "Adults and children spend much-needed quality time with their Family or with other Families who are also experiencing separation. Although the servicemember isn't present, the Families are able to enjoy each other and make lasting friendships during this difficult time."

Family members of deployed servicemembers meet at the Fort Rucker Spiritual Life Center. With the assistance of the Mobilization and Deployment program and the chaplaincy, participants meet to discuss separation issues and share their experiences with each other.

"Some participants are experiencing their third or fourth deployment and separation from their Soldier, others are new to the military life and need the support and words of wisdom from the 'seasoned spouses' and Families," said Gonzalez. "Hearts Apart activities are great times for Families to make connections and meet other spouses who are alone."

These connections are opportunities for friendships.

"Bonds of friendship are formed and make each Family member stronger," said Sue Jackson, Army Community Services director. "Each month, participants discuss a given topic, such as adjustments during separation, balance in life, communication while deployed and much more. The ACS staff is vital in supporting these Families and this group."

This program is not just for the Families, Soldiers gain from the Hearts Apart as well.

"Although separation is difficult, servicemembers have the peace of mind in knowing that their Family is not left alone during deployment," Jackson said. "Any concerns or issues that the Family may face are shared by the Fort Rucker community. Separation is difficult and networking is an intricate part of helping Families stay safe and strong while their servicemember is away."

"These Families have made a courageous decision to stay strong while their servicemember serves his or her country. The Hearts Apart program, with the support of all the ACS programs, DFMWR and the Fort Rucker community are proud to serve each Family." Gonzales said.