FORT BRAGG, N.C. - A couple stands face-to-face holding hands while gazing into each other's eyes, talking about past memories and feelings of when they first met. They stand around a table with other couples sharing their own memories.

Paratroopers, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and their families were able to relax, unwind and rekindle their relationship during a free marriage retreat at Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sept. 21-23.

The Strong Bonds retreat is a free Army program that started in 1997 originally called "Building Strong and Ready Families." The retreat's focus is for couples to build lasting relationships and allow them to reconnect with each other in a non-military environment.

"It is good to not deal with the everyday military lifestyle. It helps our relationship," said Krysti Sumner, wife of Sgt. Samuel Sumner. Sgt. Sumner is a truck driver assigned to Headquarters Company, 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2/82. A native of Shelby, N.C., Sumner said the classes are very helpful and gives them time to focus on each other.

The event was held during a long weekend, where the couples were required to engage in seminars covering different topics and principles that help them learn to communicate more efficiently.

"The program is always changing and evolving to help focus on the stress of tours due to the War on Terrorism," said Maj. Jeff Spangler, the 2nd BCT chaplain. Spangler said the Army doesn't just help married soldiers, but has programs like Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers, and the Army Community Service, which offers free counseling and classes for all soldiers and family members. The native of Akron, Ohio, Spangler said the program is an enrichment program that provides tools and resources that help improve relationships.

"Everything was very insightful, and helps us think outside of the box," said Brandee Ryan, spouse of Spc. Josh Ryan, an intelligence analyst assigned to Headquarters Company, 2/82. A native of Watertown, Tenn., Spc. Ryan said this was their first time attending a marriage retreat. "We came to this blind, and are looking forward to the next marriage retreat." said Brandee. She also said they were very surprised about all the accommodations that the Army provided.

The attendees of the Strong Bonds retreats are provided with lodging at hotels, meals and child day care during the days of the seminars. Couples are even able to set up nighttime childcare to allow for a date night.

Diana Chandler, a native of Ojai, Calif., said the free accommodations were very peaceful and relaxing. Diana is the wife of Spc. William Chandler, an armorer for Headquarters Company, 2/82. Chandler said, "This retreat helps us get away from the military environment and just be couples working things out."

The 2/82 is committed to the welfare of its paratroopers and one way it honors this is by providing events and programs to improve the morale and welfare of paratroopers and their families. The Brigade is able to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice, and the stress of deployments affects both Paratroopers and their families. The brigade holds retreats throughout the year to help build solid and resilient connections and relationships, ensuring that America's Guard of Honor is always prepared.