Originally published Monday, 23 April 2012.
What comes to your mind when you think about a military marriage or family?
Yes, we’ve all read about the stress that goes along with deployments and families living apart. But it’s another thing to hear it directly from the husbands, wives, and families who live this reality.
US Army Major General, retired, Robert F. Dees, a brilliant and humble man of God, pulled a group of us together one evening at the Marriage America Conference (hosted by the American Association of Christian Counselors) to give us a close-up look into the joys and struggles of military families.
Here are some of the stories I heard as these amazing families shared their lives with us:
~ “When my son told us that he wanted to join the Marines, we asked him if he had really considered what that meant. I’ll never forget his answer. He said, ‘Dad, what if God’s plan is for me to die for my country?’ ”
~ “I grew up on a military base. What I know is that every deployment and return tears a family apart and puts them back together – over and over again.”
~ from the wife of a couple who had moved to a military base to minister to families there:
“The loneliness of the wives came home when I went to Walmart at 11pm on a Friday night to get toothpaste. In the aisles, I saw several moms, pushing their young children in shopping carts. And I remembered what it was like for me. Being at Walmart at 11pm on a Friday night is one way these moms face and fight off the relentless loneliness of a military marriage.”
~ “Military families have a life-long bond with each other. It is like the bond of flesh and blood.”
~ At the end of the evening, one mother shared the story of her son’s return to their lives after he accidentally killed a child who was pulled in as a human shield by a Taliban fighter. Although he survived, he returned home in pieces. The sorrow and silence in the room was deafening. We joined in prayer for the course of his life and the lives of everyone affected.
These are stories that our troops and our families live, in real time.
What can we do to help?
Through this group, I learned:
1)There are about 350,000 churches in the USA, yet only a handful have military ministries. A military family ministry is something we can start to talk about in our own churches.
2)Support and recognition of their internal/emotional battle scars can make a big difference to soldiers and their families. We can keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open for the needs of these families in our communities.
3)The military family is unique. We can come alongside the wives/husbands/families who are stateside, and look for ways to support them. For example, the idea of marriage mentoring these often-young families was raised as a great start.
For more information, contact the AACC Military Director, the wonderful Major General Robert Dees at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Dr. Ann is a Christian M.D., wife to her wonderful husband, and mom to a terrific gang of three. At The Marriage Checklist Ann blogs to help women in marriage, motherhood, and more! She is syndicated on Crosswalk.com, and has been featured on BlogHer.com, MichaelHyatt.com, Fox news, and Good Morning America.
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Copyright Dr. Ann 2012
(photo credit: Simon Howden)