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VFW Magazine February 2017 : Page 33

PHOTO COURTESY OF 1ST LT. AARON RITTER/ILLINOIS ARMY NATIONAL GUARD It is a fact that if we have an M16 and it’s broken, we don’t throw it away. We switch out barrels. We get it back and use it. In marriage, if we have diffi culties, we need to reach out to a professional in the area to assist and refi ne our skill sets. Lt. Col. Steve A. Foster, Deputy Command Chaplain, Illinois Army National Guard Lt. Col. Steve A. Foster, Deputy Command Chaplain of the Illinois Army National Guard, counsels military couples. He says today’s military culture offers more support for couples than ever before. compound issues that impede communi-cation and intimacy, Van Dahlen said. “Finances is one — how money is spent or saved and who has control over it,” she said. “Raising the kids is another, because once someone is deployed and the other picks up, problems occur after the return.” “A third area that is often a strain is trust, or lack thereof — outright infi del-ity or also the suspicion of infi delity, the paranoia of, ‘While I’m away, who is she messing with? What is she doing?’ Each member has to go the extra mile to do things that convey they are committed and will build a life with you.” For Spreitzer, lack of communication built up once he was overseas because of the way his wife handled Skype calls. “A lot of times, she would pass along the tablet for other people to talk to me, and that’s not what I wanted,” he said. “When I fi nally would get ahold of her, people were at the house, or they were busy. It was never ‘the right time’ to talk. There was a lot of strain.” Lt. Col. Jeremy Irvin said his connec-tion with his wife eroded due to a two-year assignment during Operation Noble Eagle with the Illinois Army National Guard. They divorced about one month before he deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. “It takes a unique skill set to be sep-arated constantly and survive it,” Irvin said. “Your family loses their reliance on you. You’re not needed as much. I didn’t have an identity. I came home to zero responsibility. It was hard to deal with.” The stress of “fi tting in” with the new family routine, habits and expectations after a deployment can wreak havoc on even the best of marriages. Take Valerie and Chris Jackson, who have been mar-ried for 18 years. Chris is a retired infan-try Army lieutenant colonel, and she is a colonel in the Reserves, with commu-nications and civil affairs specialties. Valerie took command of 4th Civil Affairs Group in Hialeah, Fla., in December. “The stress of ‘always being in charge’ can be exhausting,” Valerie said. The effects of deployments on their marriage played out “in many ways, especially after having children,” she said. “The lead up to the deployment is always terrible. While deployed, you don’t have time to think about too many things, but when you get back, you have to adjust to the household running with-out you. So there are many instances of give-and-take for both parties.” stigmas on an airman’s career, a long-time problem that has prevented military members from seeking help on their own, Cordova said. It goes without saying that the stresses that come with a military career feed into a marital relationship. But although they’re a factor, what will ultimately determine a couple’s success is their “quality of connec-tion,” Cordova said. “That’s the statement that has pain in it,” he said. “The couples bring it up: ‘I really feel this distress in the quality of our connection.’ And that’s as true for military couples as for civilian. We were surprised to fi nd that.” Therapists who volunteer their time in the Give an Hour counseling network ( ) find the same dynamic, said Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen. She is a psychologist and president of the non-profi t, which offers free mental health services to military families. As Spreitzer experienced personally, deployments and other military stressors WEÕVE COME A LONG WAY, BABY Veterans of bygone eras wouldn’t rec-ognize today’s military culture, which offers more support for couples than ever before, said Foster and Van Dahlen. “Back in the day, there was the old adage in the military of, ‘If we’d wanted to issue you a spouse, we would’ve given FEBRUARY 2017 • WWW.VFW.ORG • 33

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