The Army Strong Bonds program is designed to help military families remain strong and resilient in the face of deployments and pressures that we have faced over the last decade. They are usually held at a resort type hotel. And while they are run by the Army's Chaplains Corps, it really doesn't have any kind of religious flavor to it. Families are encouraged to bring their children and child care is always offered. Typically, you arrive on a Friday evening for a 2 hour session with your spouse. For every retreat we've been on, the child care has a separate room with plenty of workers; you check your kids in and then go to your class. Depending on the size of the retreat, there can be anywhere from 20 to 40 families. Most of your meals for the weekend are covered. There is always free time and usually there is child care offered during part of that free time so that you can spend some time alone with your spouse.
For our trip this past weekend, we were at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, TX (adjacent to the Dallas/Fort Worth airport). To me, it is the perfect setting. I mean, who doesn't want to spend a weekend at a hotel with a giant indoor water park and have nearly all of your expenses covered??? We had plenty of time over the weekend to play in the park along with the sessions that we attended. The meals were great and we had absolutely no complaints.
Here's the thing: there are tons of stressors on our military families these days. We're being told that deployments are going to slow down, but with our changing world, there's no real guarantee that will happen. Add to that the long hours that our soldiers work and the stress that they are under each day, and you can imagine the strain that our families can come under.
The Army finally began to realize what was happening to our families 7 or 8 years ago. It began to realize that in order to have an effective, stable fighting force it needed to have strong, stable families behind those soldiers. Soldiers don't reenlist and stay in if their families aren't happy. Strong Bonds is part of that effort. There have been some tough times during the deployments we've faced over the last 4-5 years. But I've never felt like the Army didn't care about us during those times. Sure, there was a time when the mentality of "the Army didn't issue you a wife and children" held sway. Those days, however, are gone. The truth is, our senior leadership actually does care about the overall health of our military families.
The Army isn't alone in this effort. The Navy and Marines have what's called CREDO, and the Air Force, while not having an over arching service wide program, provides services and retreats put on by individual bases that are very similar in nature to Strong Bonds. With all of these resources being offered to our military families, there's no reason why any military family shouldn't take advantage of one of these retreats. So here's the question: what are you waiting for?
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