By Catherine Ross (Fort Carson)October 25, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Army Community Service hosted the 2012 Spouse Relationship Resilience Day at The Hub Oct. 19, providing nearly 60 Fort Carson military spouses with knowledge and tools for strengthening their marriages tested by deployments.
The daylong program featured a discussion of managing post-traumatic stress disorder in the context of marriage reconnection, led by retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Alan Garner, a readjustment counselor for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Garner stressed that Soldiers need their spouses' help upon redeploying.
"Your spouses deploy in a combat zone, and that's a bit of a different universe," Garner said. "It's important to understand that when your spouse comes back, they need your help."
A former Navy chaplain, Garner served multiple deployments including as a member of a casualty recovery team, and shared his personal experiences dealing with PTSD.
"PTSD is a normal reaction to an abnormal event," Garner said. Using clips from the movie "Brothers" to illustrate the signs and symptoms of PTSD, he encouraged attendees to share anything they noticed about their Soldiers upon redeployment, with fellow spouses seated at their tables.
"You are the expert on your spouse. No one on this post knows your spouse better than you," Garner said, explaining how spouses can help their Soldiers reintegrate, relax and believe that they are home and no longer in a combat zone.
"You have to come up with creative ways to do that," he said, recommending Family reunions and other Family-oriented activities that can assist with "reacquainting a Soldier with the nonmilitary part of life."
The program also included a talk by retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Pepe Ramirez, who described potential reintegration challenges and methods for dealing with those challenges. Ramirez, who is also a readjustment counselor with the VA and a veteran of three deployments, shared personal experiences and gave recommendations on how servicemembers can reconnect with their spouses and children.
"I take my wife on dates now. You need to do that. Dress up, go on a date," Ramirez said as a way to preserve romance in a marriage. "Keep fighting for your marriage, because it is important.
"It takes a different kind of … spouse to be with a Soldier," Ramirez said. "I just want to say thank you for your service and your sacrifice."
Ken Robinson, ACS Family Advocacy Program coordinator, explained the different types of marriages and how the type of marriage a couple has can affect the way each spouse deals with deployment. He and Dr. Fed Gingrich discussed marital dynamics with attendees.
Jamie Tootle, whose husband is currently deployed, explained the frustrations she felt when her husband came home for midtour leave. Tootle recommends that other spouses participate in resilience day programs.
"It gives you really good insight. This really puts it all in perspective," she said.
Tootle said her husband requested that she keep routines and the house the same during his deployment. "It sounded so comical," she said, "but now I get it. He needed that stability."
Hollie Keahtigh, whose husband is on his third deployment, attended similar resilience day programs at their previous duty station, Fort Hood, Texas.
"I think this is great. After so many deployment separations, trying to reconnect --
it happens every time," she said.
Keahtigh recommends getting redeployed Soldiers "involved in Family and friends, and not just work, because you're not going to eat, breathe and sleep work 24 hours a day anymore."
Staff Sgt. Barbara Grant, master resilience trainer, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, provided an overview of resilience training Soldiers receive. It is mandatory that Soldiers receive two hours of resilience training per quarter, said Grant, who explained the Soldiers' training focuses on communication, and how to talk through negative thinking patterns.
Grant said the MRT program "brings Soldiers back to being human and having positive roles in our community."
Grant, who received MRT training at the University of Pennsylvania, said in its sixth year, it is still a fairly new program.
"It is the only Army program in which military members can provide training to non-servicemembers," she said.
The Resilience Day program provided free books on marriage and PTSD, and free child care for participants.