By Tim Cherry, Belvoir EagleNovember 23, 2011
Spouses coping with extended periods of time away from their Soldiers joined in fellowship during the Hearts Apart program Friday.
The program is a monthly meeting run by the Relocation Readiness Program in the Army Community Service building.
Hearts Apart allows spouses to build a support group by sharing each other's thoughts on numerous topics.
Spouses with Soldiers on deployments, unaccompanied tours or extended temporary duty assignments are encouraged to attend.
Participants help each other on topics such as handling payments, house maintenance and raising children.
"We want (spouses) to know they're not the only people who experience this," said Amy Altersitz, relocation specialist.
Each month, the organizers of the Hearts Apart program have a conversation topic for spouses to address.
This month's topic was resiliency, and a representative from the Military Family Life Consultant led a dialogue.
As defined by MFLC, resiliency is the capacity to rise above difficult circumstances; the ability to recover from setbacks; a quality of bouncing back.
Building resiliency is very important for spouses because they are taking care of home in their partner's absence.
The group agreed an important characteristic of a resilient person is the ability to adapt because spouses of servicemembers have to be flexible and learn how to take on extra responsibilities in their Soldier's absences.
Self awareness is also an important quality as the group agreed that the more a person understands their own qualities, the better they'll be able to know when they need help in a particular area.
And when it's time for help, the consultant urged members to not be afraid to ask. The consultant stressed that even the world's most famous people have had assistance along the way.
Resiliency during a Soldier's reintegration into Family upon return from assignment was also discussed.
The consultant and Relocation Readiness Program representatives said Families should take advantage of all the courses MFLC and ACS offer to help Soldiers and spouses get re-acclimated to living with each other.
"It all kind of helps ease your mind a bit," Altersitz said speaking of the various programs that help spouses and servicemembers deal with the time apart.
As a Military spouse herself, Altersitz understands the importance of having a program such as Hearts Apart to help Families during extended times away from their servicemember.
To maximize each spouse's experience in the program, Altersitz emphasized that each person has significant input into the direction of the monthly meetings.
"The spouses are in charge of the program," Altersitz said.
Extended periods of time away from a Soldier is a learning experience for every spouse.
The consensus in the group was that there will be tough times, but they all agreed the ordeal makes them better people.
"I was surprised at how much stronger I really was," said Virginia Curtis, stay-at-home wife.
Like many spouses, Curtis has taken on many unfamiliar roles during her husband's deployment. She appreciates the experience and has grown a lot.
Hearts Apart Program has been a supportive and social environment for Curtis that allows her to share ideas and her thoughts on the extended separation from her husband.
Curtis, who enjoys the company of the other spouses, said "it's nice to be able to have a resource that's available to help us out."
She encourages all spouses to take the extended separation from loved ones day-by-day and "remember that it's temporary."
Altersitz encourages people to participate in the program's next meeting which will be a holiday social for children and spouses.