MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- “If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready,we shall never begin.”—Russian Novelist Ivan Turgener
MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif.—Getting Ready
With that in mind Marine Corps Community Services hosts Reunion Briefs for families in the weeks before their Marines and Sailors are scheduled to return from deployment.
“Despite what you’ve seen in the news, much has been accomplished by your husbands,” said Maj. Matt Baker, deputy director, Marine Corps Community Services, speaking to the wives of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines Aug. 20. “Your husbands have played an important role in Iraq—-and they’ve seen and done a lot of things—things that they didn’t do or see last year.”
Baker, who served as the executive officer for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, during OIF 1, reminded the women their husbands had been in a war zone.
“This wasn’t a long live-fire exercise ladies,” he started. “Live fire is what they do when they’re training here at [combined arms exercises]. This battalion earned more than 150 purple hearts; they’ve been to combat.
He explained they’d been completely focused on their mission and might need time to readjust to life at home.
“Your Marines and Sailors will be much more aware of their surroundings when they return,” explained Baker. “He may not engage with you right away—he’s been on guard for seven months. Give him time to relax.”
Along with Baker, a representative from Family Services, the Religious Ministries Directorate and the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital’s Mental Health Clinic shared different things the wives of homebound Marines and Sailors may expect and how to prepare.
“Start preparing your children for the reunion as well,” said retired master sergeant and MCCS Community Support Officer Larry Stratton. “Remember that children are not little adults—don’t expect them to cope with this like adults.”
Stratton reminded the women their children will cope with the reunion in a different way.
“Children’s emotions will range from sadness and uncertainty to anticipation and excitement,” said Stratton. “They will feed off of your emotions-if you are stressed and angry, they will be too. Maintaining a positive attitude will keep your children calm and happy.”
Asking that no one raise their hands, Stratton laughed and asked how many women currently had children sleeping in their beds.
“You have a month to get them sleeping in their own beds,” the father of three reminded them.
Going from parenting as a couple to single parenting back to a couple is hard, explained Stratton.
“If you made parenting changes during the deployment, and they are working for you, be up front with your husband about them,” he explained.
Dr. Beverly Ann Dexter, Lt. Cmdr., explained that some or all of the Marines and Sailors returning would have experienced a variety of situations that may result in Combat Stress Reactions.
“War is an abnormal event,” she started. “It is not normal to have to kill other human beings, to be shot at, or to see dead bodies. For those of us who live in the United States, starving children and extreme destruction are not normal either.”
Dexter explained that everyone deals with Combat Stress in different ways.
“He may have nightmares, he may be withdrawn, he may want to sit and tell you all of his stories,” explained Dexter. “These are all normal reactions. It is the one who doesn’t display these reactions that we need to be worried about.”
Dexter told the wives to be willing to listen to their husband’s stories, but to set boundaries if need be.
“You don’t need to be traumatized by the gory details,” she emphasized. “Each one of you knows how much you can absorb. If the stories are too graphic, ask him to share them with someone else.”
Dexter said counseling services, nightmare workshops and stress classes are available on base for family members as well as Marines and Sailors.
“Your husbands are going to have a three-day standdown before they return to the states,” said Baker. “It is headed by the Chaplain Corps, and the goal is to help them readjust as much as possible. They had classes last year, but this year is much more intense.”
Life as Normal
Stratton reminded wives that relationships were not going to be instantly perfect when their husbands got off the bus.
“The problems you may have had before they deployed will still be there,” he explained. “Be prepared to work through issues, just like before he deployed.”
Baker reiterated the returning Marines and Sailors would need time to adjust to being home, being safe and not “on guard.”
“Everything will be ‘normal’ here when they come home,” he explained. “You’ll head down to the River for a movie, and no one will seem to even know there is a war going on. That will be painful for him, and he may or may not choose to talk to you about it.”
Baker asked the wives to remember they can reach out to talk to someone if they need to as well.
“You are not a one-way street,” he explained. “If he talks to you about his experiences, and you need to talk to someone-do it.”
Stratton thanked the wives for holding things together while their husbands were deployed.
“You’ve shown strength, pride and patriotism,” he said. “By staying strong and allowing your Marine or Sailor to focus on their mission—you’ve accomplished much, and we at MCCS thank every one of you.”