Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Counseling as a chaplain

Well, here is my home. I don't think I've posted this picture before, but this is the barrack in which I am staying. It is a former Iraqi Army barrack, and it really isn't too bad. I bought a piece of carpet for my floor, so it's starting to even feel a little homey. Kind of like a run down college dorm. But, it's MY kind-of-run-down-almost-a-college-dorm-room. Well, it is for now.

On another note, I want to mention some things about counseling. This is a huge part of my job, and it seems to go in waves; I'll have a ton of people coming in for counseling for a few days, and then nobody for a few days etc.

So what is the biggest issue I counsel Soldiers about? Marriage, without question. This is huge, and I spend a lot of time on it.

There are some reasons why. First of all, the separation strains marriages. But for a good marriage, the separation is not that big of a deal in the long run. The bigger issue is that when a Soldier deploys, the distance brings out the true nature of your marriage. In good marriages the spouses tend to appreciate each other more, while suffering from being apart. On the other hand, the distance will also highlight the deficiencies in weak marriages; for example, if a couple couldn't communicate respectfully and lovingly before the deployment, that weakness is magnified during the separation. So, the separation can either highlight strengths or weaknesses in a marriage.

The second issue is the age of many of our Soldiers. I need to take a second to honor this: I could not have been deployed and done the work so many of our Soldiers are doing when I was 20 years old. I just couldn't. They are asked to take on a maturity that is a great leap for many people fresh out of high school. But they do it, and most of them really do a great job.

However, this instant maturity seems to cause a lot of Soldiers to get married sooner. That's just my anecdotal take; I don't have stats to back it up. But you get a guy who is a fresh high school grad, has a steady job, health insurance, and respect, and many of them end up getting married sooner than they might otherwise. Added to this is the fact that many military installations have women in the area that are keen to take advantage of young Soldiers, and marry them for less than honorable reasons.

So, between the separation, the age of many of our Soldiers, and the sometimes questionable motives for getting married, there is a quite a bit of marital stress.

The Army does a great job of trying to help. It offers free marriage retreats when Soldiers get home, it is very good about organizing family readiness groups during deployment, and so on. But ultimately the decisions about having a good marriage are up to the Soldier and his or her spouse.


Anonymous Margit and Tom said...

Hey Chris,

Thanks for sharing on the counseling part you do. I also like all the pictures you are posting. I may have actually gone up in that hand thing you were in (although scared). You would have laughed at me in the elevator; it was a flashback to the time we got stuck and I said out loud, uh-oh we aren't stuck are we? The whole elevator looked at me like I was crazy!
Funny :)

Miss you and love you,

Margit and Tommy

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Chris:

Your home away from home looks interesting. Your take on the difficulties of separation are right on. It's amazing that these young men are able to do as well as they do. Most people don't appreciate the youth of our soldiers. This instant maturity under the most stressful conditions must be very difficult. Your blog site is going out to many friends. I have gotten many comments on your insight and especially on the memorial service. We are very proud of you. Love, Dad

12:08 PM  

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