By Justin Creech, Belvoir EagleOctober 13, 2011
Fort Belvoir's Army Community Services Mobilization and Deployment program offers Reunion and Reintegration classes for Soldiers returning from deployment as well as their Family members.
The classes are the third Monday of every month at the ACS Building. Families are encouraged to take the reunion class first and then take the reintegration class once the deployed Family member has come home.
The reunion class is suggested first because the class focuses on teaching the awaiting spouse and Family members to start thinking about their expectations for the returning Soldier, according to Carol Janer Mob/D program manager.
She said the Soldier receives the same training before coming home, so both parties should be able to communicate their expectations to one another before the Soldier returns.
"The other part of reunion is to prepare the Family members for what to expect when the Soldier comes back," said Janer. "For instance, their driving may be very fast and erratic, so the spouse may want to do the driving while the returning spouse gets acclimated to being home."
Some Soldiers experience disappointment with their children upon returning home. A child younger than four may not remember his or her returning parent which leads to aloofness when the Soldier was expecting the child to embrace him or her with open arms.
Janer said she suggests the parent sit down on the floor with some toys or a book and let the child come to them. She also said the parent can read the child a book before bed or even give the child a bath.
"Do things that are part of their normal routine," said Janer. "But, slowly and it will go a lot better."
Returning Soldiers are going to be very tired when they first get home -- one, because of jet lag; and two because of the high alert they have been on while away.
Janer said it may take a few months for the Soldier to stop reacting to loud noises.
"We talk to the Families about not taking the returning Soldier to the mall the first day, or have a big party with all the Family, friends and neighbors right away," said Janer. "Give them that time to come down off of what they've been doing before you hit them with all that kind of stuff."
The erratic driving and jumpiness are symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder that the returning Soldier may display. Other symptoms include outbursts of anger, persistent nightmares and withdrawal from Family. Symptoms that last more than three or four months are abnormal and additional help should be sought.
The reintegration classes cover situations that take place once the returning Soldier has been home for several weeks.
Children older than five ears old may be afraid to get close to their parent because they fear he or she may leave again. Issues with teenage children can develop as well since the teenager more than likely feels like they had to take their mom or dad's place in the Family while he or she was gone.
"If the parent says 'Ok, I'm back now son, you can go do your thing' the teenager gets resentful," said Janer. "They think, "I did that for a year and now you just put me back in my place and don't show me any appreciation.'"
It is important for the returning Soldier to show his or her Family appreciation for what it went through while he or she was deployed. The returning spouse is encouraged to set aside some alone time to spent with their spouse and do what the awaiting spouse wants to do. Each child is also encouraged to pick one realistic activity to do alone with his or her returning parent.
The reunion and reintegration classes are not specific to Soldiers who have Families. There are single Soldiers who return from deployment and they can have a tougher time readjusting because they don't have a spouse to come home to.
"If the Soldiers come back as a group and all the ones that are married or have parents that come out the single Soldier sees all that and they slip away because they don't have anybody there waiting for them when they get back," said Janer. "It's up to the unit to do something to make sure the single Soldiers are recognized. It's important the single Soldiers feel important to."
Janer also said it's important for the parents of a single Soldier to treat their child like an adult once he or she returns from deployment.
"We have to caution mothers of single Soldiers because the Soldier doesn't want to be coddled when they get back," said Janer. "They are grown up and living on their own so you can't put them under your wing again and protect them. Fix them their favorite meal and spoil them a little, but realize they are grown ups."