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News > Commentary - Strengthening military marriages one retreat at a time
Strengthening military marriages one retreat at a time

Posted 5/23/2012   Updated 5/23/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) R. Scott Savell
673d Air Base Wing Chaplain

5/23/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- An ancient Christian text reads, "Marriage is to be held in honor among all."
It is no secret military marriages can be stressful.

The demands of military life in general, the prospect of deployment and other
long periods of time couples spend separated from one another can tear at the very fabric of a marital relationship.

In fact, the Air Force considers the state of one's marriage to be a readiness issue.
If things aren't going well at home, that could spill over into work - thus negatively affecting the mission.

For this reason the Air Force Chaplain Corps has designed a MarriageCare retreat to renew and revitalize strained military marriages.

Twenty-three couples gathered at the beautiful Alyeska Resort for a three-day MarriageCare retreat April 27 hosted by the JBER chaplain corps.

This retreat was an all-inclusive weekend provided at no cost.

The only thing we asked couples to commit to was attending four one-hour sessions and spending the rest of their time together as a couple focusing on their marriage -
because after all, only God and the couple are the real experts in a marriage.

The format of the retreat, although spiritual, is not religious.

The focus is on the traditional American marriage vows - "I take you... I take you; to have and to hold; for better or for worse; to love and to cherish."

Even if couples didn't use the traditional vows in their wedding ceremony, everyone could readily identify with them.

During the sessions, couples learned about differences and how these differences can be experienced in both a positive and negative light.

They also worked on improving communication and learning how to say, "I'm sorry," and to forgive.

A combination of discussion, short videos, comedy and one-on-one time were used to help couples focus on improving their marriage.

Couples were chosen for the retreat based upon various criteria, such as preparing for or returning from deployment, units with high operational tempo, and couples identified by commanders, first sergeants or unit chaplains.

Feedback from the retreat was overwhelmingly positive and nearly every couple reported the retreat strengthened their relationship.

Some of the feedback included comments such as, "This was an amazing weekend," and "Everything was very streamlined and direct. The videos were great, along with the individual time."

One couple even had a message for leadership: "This retreat was amazing! I
don't know what this cost, but it was amazing and I would love for other members to get the same opportunity."

Because the JBER Chaplain Corps believes marriage is to be held in honor among all, another MarriageCare retreat is in the works for September.

If you and your spouse are interested in being a part of our next retreat contact the Chapel Center at 552-4422 for more information.

You can also email

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