PAIRS team traveled to Nashville last week to share skills and strategies for resilient marriages and families with nearly 300 Soldiers and spouses from the 101st Airborne Division, the only Air Assault division in the world. We returned to our homes in South Florida Sunday having learned lifelong lessons in courage, valor, faith, service and sacrifice.
We reached the training location an hour south of the massive 106,000 acre Fort Campbell complex as Army Chief of Staff General George Casey Jr. visited Soldiers of the 101st, acknowledging the stress of multiple deployments and meeting with spouses at the Family Readiness Center. The leadership of Fort Campbell is actively investing in model programs to strengthen families, marriages, and address the impact of deployment.
In his meeting with Soldiers and spouses, General Casey acknowledged studies which show that it has typically taken two to three years after a one-year deployment “to get Soldiers back to normal garrison stress levels.” He recognized the cumulative impact of multiple deployments, especially with only 12 months in between.
PAIRS Foundation’s collaboration with the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center was recently recognized by the Veterans Administration as “Best Practice in Marriage Enrichment.” The training for members of the 101st Airborne Division is part of the Foundation’s efforts to help strengthen marriages and families prior to deployment.
The Soldiers, spouses and children attending the Valentine’s Weekend Retreat are the front line of America’s war on terror, the currency with which our leaders meet their obligations to protect the freedom and security of our nation. The year-long separation of each deployment, the Soldiers’ courage and valor far from home, and significant sacrifices of loved ones who stay behind, is their part of the sacred trust for which our nation is forever in their debt. For our team and many others, our collective commitment to embrace each of these Soldiers and their families with effective skills, strategies, and support to sustain their relationships through deployment and afterward as husbands, wives, fathers and mothers is our sacred trust. In my closing comments of the retreat, I expressed the sentiments of each of our team members in saying it cannot be that their service to protect each of us and our children means they lose their relationships with each other and their children.
Having spent months preparing for deployment to posts more than 7,000 miles away from loved ones, many arrived at the marriage retreat already steeled from the emotions of saying goodbye to beloved spouses and children as they fulfill their obligations to our country. Some will depart for Afghanistan in days, nearly all within weeks. For the far majority of participants, this is not their first deployment.
The exercises we shared throughout the highly experiential program included powerful tools for sustaining love, connecting to each other with empathy and compassion, dealing constructively with differences with mutual respect and concern, and empowering couples to share emotional experiences on behalf of deepening attachment and bonding as the foundation of their relationships long into the future.
The quiet words, tears, and faces of the participants as they momentarily surrendered their roles as warriors to experience the depth and meaning of their roles within their marriages and families taught us much about the deeply personal price of courage, valor, faith, service and sacrifice — lessons that will remain forever etched within our minds, as our prayers for their safe return and the protection of their families echo within our hearts.
UPDATE (Feb. 16, 2010): Evaluations from 147 participants in the PAIRS Valentine’s Retreat for Soldiers and Spouses of the 101st Airborne Division show 88% reported the program Very Good or Excellent; 89% reported the instructors Very Good or Excellent; 99% said they would recommend PAIRS; 89% said they would like to participate in additional PAIRS classes. A copy of the full evaluation report is available here.
PAIRS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is one of the nation’s oldest and leading providers of relationship skills training. For more information, call (877) PAIRS-4U (724 7748), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.pairs.com.