Tag Archives: deployments

Remembering 37 Years of Military Marriage: Judy, My Own Lili Marlene


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

One of the most beloved songs of love between a woman and a soldier is the song Lili Marlene. Hans Leip, a school teacher conscripted into the Imperial Army wrote it in 1915 as a three verse poem. It was published in 1937 with two additional verses prior to the Second World War in Germany. It was set to music by Norbert Schultze in 1938 and recorded in German by Lale Anderson in 1939, and in English in 1942.

Lili Marlene German- English Translation

 

Lili Marlene (Semi-literal Translation)

Vor der Kaserne, vor dem grossen Tor
In front of the barracks, at the large entrance gate

Stand eine Laterne, und steht sie noch davor.
Stood a lamplight, and if it’s still standing there,

So woll’n wir uns da wieder seh’n
We want to see each other there again

Bei der Laterne wollen wir steh’n
We want to stand at the lamplight

Wie einst Lili Marleen, Wie einst Lili Marleen.
As before, Lili Marlene, as before, Lili Marlene.

Unsere beide Schatten sah’n wie einer aus
Our two shadows appeared as one

Dass wir so lieb uns hatten, das sah man gleich daraus.
That we were so  much in love, one saw immediately.

Und alle Leute solln es seh’n
And everyone should see it

Wenn wir bei der Laterne steh’n,
When we are standing by the lamplight

Wie einst Lili Marleen, wie einst Lili Marleen
As before, Lili Marlene, as before,  Lili Marlene.

Schon rief der Posten: Sie blasen  Zapfenstreich
The sentry had already called out: They are sounding curfew.

Das kann drei Tage kosten.  Kam’rad, ich komm sogleich.
“It can cost three days.”  “I’m coming momentarily, comrade.”

Da sagten wir auf Wiedersehen,
Then we said goodbye.

Wie gerne wollt ich mit mir dir geh’n,
How much I wanted to go with you,

Mit dir Lili Marleen, mit dir Lili Marleen.
With you, Lili Marlene, with you, Lili Marlene.

Deine Schritte kennt sie, deinen zieren Gang
It [the lamplight] knows your footsteps, your graceful walk

Alle Abend brennt sie, doch mich vergass sie lang.
Every evening it is burning, but it forgot about me long ago.

Und sollte mir ein Leids gescheh’n,
If harm should come to me,

Wer wird bei der Laterne stehen,
Who will stand at the lamplight,

Mit dir Lili Marleen, mir dir Lili Marleen?
With you, Lili Marlene, with you, Lili Marlene?

Aus dem stillen Raume, aus der Erde Grund
From the quiet place, out of the earthly ground

Hebt mich wie im Traume dein verliebter Mund.
I am lifted as in a dream to your loving lips.

Wenn sich die spaeten Nebel drehn,
When the evening mist swirls in

Werd’ ich bei der Laterne steh’n
I will be standing at the lamplight

Wie einst Lili Marleen, wie einst Lili Marleen.
As before, Lili Marlene, as before, Lili Marlene.

The German and later the English version was broadcast by Radio Belgrade, under German control began to broadcast it. It became a sentimental hit among British, Australian, and New Zealanders of the British 8th Army in North Africa and it became the unofficial song of the 8th Army and 6th Armored Division. As American military personnel began arriving in Europe and began fighting in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels was infuriated and order that Radio Belgrade cease playing it, but under pressure from Field Marschall Erwin Rommel, Goebbels backed down. Afterwards, until Belgrade was captured by the Russians Radio Belgrade would play it nightly at their 9:55 sign off. Soldiers from both sides turned in to the song. In 1944 the expatriate German film star and singer Marlene Dietrich, for the OSS, and later in both the English and the original German version.

There is nothing political about the song, it reflects the heartache of separation and the anxiety experienced by those separated by military duties, deployments, and war. There is a certain tenderness and sadness that it reflects that that only those whose spouses or loved ones who go into harms way, that includes military personnel, law enforcement officers, Fire Fighters and EMS workers, and others who go into harms way not knowing what that day might bring. It has become popular in countries around the world, even today, were soldiers go to war and leave their loved ones behind.

 










But among these, military personnel are unique because when we go away, we go away not knowing when or if they would return. Most of us who have gone to war over the last two decades have wondered about this because no matter where we fought there was no front line, the enemy could be anywhere even on supposedly safe bases. Honestly I seldom told Judy exactly what I was doing in combat operations I was always the one unarmed dude accompanying small groups of 8-12 advisors to Iraqi forces in Al Anbar Province equipped with small arms and HUMMV mounted machine guns. Then there were the 75 missions I made as an adviser with a boarding team in the Persian Gulf during the Iraqi Oil Embargo, and the time we almost got into a shooting match with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Naval Gunboats who were harassing our flagship, an Australian special operations support ship with little in the way of defensive armament. It was just a matter of minutes until we launched at them when they broke off their attack and went back into Iranian territorial waters, then there was the week we were in between the Indian and Pakistani fleets as their nations sat on the brink of nuclear war.

For 37 years Judy has been my Lili Marlene, and she still is. Back in the early part of our marriage the Cold War was about to turn hot and we never knew when an alert to go to the Fulda Gap to sacrifice ourselves to support the 11th Armored Cavalry. Our casualties were predicted to be 75-90% in order to buy time for troops from the United States arrive. The wives had a way to figure out if it was a real thing or not, especially if the alert occurred at an odd hour, they looked to see if the cars from Air Force personnel were still parked. But I digress, in those days the tensions between the US and the Soviet Union were very high, and there was one day where due to computer glitch the Soviets nearly launched a nuclear strike thinking that our missiles were already on the way.  Add to that the Red Brigade and Bader-Meinhof terrorist gangs that went around bombing and killing American military personnel, NATO and West German Officials.

 

Of course there were the times on stateside duty in non-deploying active duty units, or National Guard and Reserve units with combat missions should war break out where there were always things that kept us apart, field exercises, duty, Death notifications, meetings and planning sessions, conferences, required schools and so on. I figure over the course of my career where we were married, of over 37 years we have been separated for over 14 years due to a combination of everything above, I am probably underestimating by some because I’m not counting the number of days that I spent on call in hospitals, or was at home studying for another master’s degree, other schools, or taking students to Gettysburg,  I have been away for 17 wedding anniversaries and more holidays and birthdays than I can count.

But Judy is an amazing woman, despite the hardships, frequent moves, my time in seminary and my hospital residency where between those things and duties in the National Guard, my mobilizations and deployments she soldiered on. We have had our share of difficulties, especially since we both suffer from different types of PTSD on top of my TBI and Moral Injury. Thankfully we’ve had our long line of dogs to help us through tough times, and were there for each other to the best of our ability, which sometimes wasn’t very good.

But since the day I laid eyes on her she has been the only woman I have ever loved. She is a friend who will tell me the truth and when needed try to keep me coloring within the lines. That my friends can be difficult as my personality type is a Myers-Briggs INTJ, think Dr. Greg House, (House M.D.) Marcellus Wallace, (Pulp Fiction) Michael and Vito Corleone, (The Godfather series) Professor Moriarty, (Sherlock Holmes) Ellen Ripley, (Alien), Gandalf, (Lord of the Rings), Mr. Burns, (The Simpson’s), Sherlock Holmes, Hannibal Lector and Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs), Bruce Wayne/Batman, Emperor Palpatine and Count Doku (Star Wars trilogy) and Walter White (Breaking Bad). That being said she has to be a saint to love me the way she does and probably feels the same about me.

But Judy is my Lili Marlene and for too many years she has waited for me, and now my military career is coming to an end. My retirement ceremony will be as much as her as about me. She was there when when I marched to the sound of the guns and volunteered for every dangerous mission I could. When I came home from Iraq and melted down, and occasionally still do from my PTSD, TBI, and Moral Injury, my anxiety and depression, nightmare and night terror disorder, which gets pretty violent at times, she stayed with me, and I can now understand a least some of what she suffered and struggled with for years.

She is the best, incredibly creative and talented, able to see what can be made and how to make it better, and so amazingly compassionate and caring for people, but willing to be honest with people when they are being unreasonable. I am incredibly thankful and blessed that she stood by me all these years.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

 

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Filed under life, marriage and relationships, Military, Tour in Iraq

To Iraq and Back: Prelude: I was Born for This

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Me in 1982 

This is the first actual chapter in my series “To Iraq and Back: Padre Steve’s War and Return.” I wrote last night that I was going to be doing this and I figure that there is no time like the present to start. Just about 6 years ago I was preparing to deploy to Iraq as an individual augment supporting the US Marine and Army advisors to Iraqi Army and Security Forces in Al Anbar Province. After 6 years I think I can finally complete my literary account of my experiences in Iraq, my return and subsequent struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). 

Though I am not certain, I do think that many of us were born for what we feel called to do. As bit of a theologian I can honestly say that I am not a Calvinist or strict Augustinian who believes that we are simply playing out some predetermined role or fate on earth. Neither am I a fatalist but I really do feel, that whether it was something God ordained, something genetic or a product of my environment growing up, that I was born to do what I do.

As one who has some training as well in psychology and pastoral care I also understand that the human mind is a very complicated lump of gray matter. I know that we as human being as products of our genetic make up, our upbringing and environment, education, spiritual formation, relationships ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

So I know what I believe about my calling to serve in the military and the priestly vocation cannot be scientifically proven. That being said, I believe and that belief in my calling survived even in my times of unbelief.  A paradox for sure, belief and unbelief coexisting at the same time in the same person, but Father Andrew Greeley said it well in his novel The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St Germain: “Most priests, if they have any sense or any imagination, wonder if they truly believe all the things they preach. Like Jean-Claude they both believe and not believe at the same time.”

My tour in Iraq in a sense was the culmination of my calling, a call that I felt at a very early age, to serve in the military and later to be called to serve as a Priest in the military. I have long figured that to have served a full career in the military in time of war and not to have gone forward into danger to do what I have trained all my life to do.

I have a hard time not remembering when I wanted to serve in the military and serve in combat. That may sound strange but for some reason, even though I was not encouraged to follow this path it was something that growing up as the son of a Navy Chief Petty Officer who served at the Battle of An Loc in the Vietnam War that I felt was my destiny. Maybe it is faith, maybe it is some sort of mysticism or even fatalism, but I do believe that for good or for bad that I am doing what I was born to do.

George Patton commented: “A man must know his destiny. if he does not recognize it, then he is lost. By this I mean, once, twice, or at the very most, three times, fate will reach out and tap a man on the shoulder. if he has the imagination, he will turn around and fate will point out to him what fork in the road he should take, if he has the guts, he will take it.”

I am sure that my family and my earliest friends can testify to my love of all things military and the nearly romantic calling that soldiering had on my life. At nearly every turn in life I have responded to the military calling by volunteering for assignments that would place me closest to the action. There were times that my wishes were thwarted and my desires placed on hold, but they never died.

I served on the Fulda Gap in the Cold War and missed serving in ht First Iraq War because I had left active duty to attend seminary and my National Guard unit just missed being mobilized. I did support the Bosnia operation as a mobilized Army Reserve Major and during that mobilized period of service was told that I was not a place for me in the Regular Army. However, a few months after my last active reserve posting I was given the chance to apply for active duty as a Navy Chaplain. Less than 7 weeks after the first talk with the Navy I resigned my Army Reserve commission as a Major and accepted a lower rank, that of a Navy Lieutenant to enter active duty in February 1999.

The Marine unit that I was serving with in 1999 came very close to being sent to the Kosovo crisis and had Slobodan Milosevic not made a last minute peace deal after a 70 day air campaign I am sure I would have ended up there.

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With my Boarding Team, April 2002 aboard USS Hue City

However it was 9-11-2001 that changed everything. I was in Camp LeJeune North Carolina with the 2nd Marine Division when the hijacked aircraft hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Shortly after those attacks I was transferred to the USS Hue City, a Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser. My first wartime deployment was in 2002 aboard Hue City supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Southern Watch. On that deployment I served as an advisor to one of our boarding teams and took part in over 70 boarding party operations against Iraqi and other oil smugglers who were breaking the United Nations oil sanctions against Iraq.

We were in the yards when Operation Iraqi Freedom began and in the fall of 2003 I was assigned to the Marine Security Force Battalion. In my time at Security Forces I travelled around the world and often to the Middle East and Europe, but not to Iraq or Afghanistan. Because the elements that we sent to Iraq were too small to rate an organic chaplain I did not deploy with them, though I heard about the experiences of many of those Marines and Navy Corpsmen as they came to me for counsel when they came home.

Despite having spent time of the boarding teams and having deployed numerous other places in my career there were times that I felt like William Tecumseh Sherman, who missed the war with Mexico having been sent to California who wrote: “I have felt tempted to send my resignation to Washington and I really feel ashamed to wear epaulettes after having passed through a war without smelling gun-powder.”

In October 2006 I was assigned to Navy EOD Group Two and shortly thereafter my life which had been very active with more time spent away from home than with my wife since my call up in 1996 to support the Bosnia operation became much more complicated. While at EOD I was supporting very skilled sailors most of whom had deployed multiple times in the always dangerous work of defusing and defending against Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, the signature weapon of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also was called to support sailors either preparing to go to Iraq or Afghanistan as Individual Augments or those that were returning home.  As I heard their stories, especially those serving as advisors with Iraqis or Afghani soldiers I knew that was what I needed to be doing.

In early 2007 a call went out seeking chaplains to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan in various roles that were not supported by unit chaplains. With the permission of my supervisory Chaplain, Captain Deborah McGuire who was at the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command I put my name in the hat and was notified that I would be sent overseas. I explained to Judy that despite her misgivings that I felt that Nelson and I were the most ready, qualified and prepared team to take on the mission. Needless to say that did not assuage her fears and concerns and an emotional distance began to grow between us.

Initially we thought it would be sent to Iraq, then it was Afghanistan, and finally the first week of June 2007 the orders came down for Iraq. My faithful assistant, Religious Program Specialist Nelson Lebron would go with me. It was the first time that an existing Religious Ministry Team had been tagged to take on an independent mission of this nature.

Our orders were to support Marine Corps and Army advisors in Al Anbar Province, a mission that was new because when the advisory teams were first formed no one thought about organic religious or spiritual support. It was assumed that chaplains from nearby units would suffice but the Army and Marines learned that the assumption was wrong and that the advisors needed their own chaplain support.

The next few weeks would be a whirlwind as we prepared to go. They would be weeks that were trying both individually and for our families and neither of us would realize how much we would be impacted by our time in Iraq, but in June of 2007 that was still a part of our yet uncharted future.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Next: The Preparations

 

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Filed under PTSD, to iraq and back, Tour in Iraq

Goodbyes and Prayers: Sending Friends off to War

My little war within the war, Christmas with the Bedouin

Yesterday I was honored to be at a pre-deployment ceremony for a number of my shipmates from Portsmouth Naval Medical Center about half of I know fairly well.  There were physicians, nurses and hospital corpsmen in the group, some going to Afghanistan with the Marines, NATO or the Army while others were going to Guantanamo Bay or Djibouti, the country rejected by both Eritrea and Ethiopia. I already have seen a good number of friends and colleagues from our Medical Center deploy and in some cases return and I know of one corpsman that came back wounded while serving with the Marines in Afghanistan.

COP South

I have done many of these send offs since coming to Portsmouth but I think that today I knew a higher percentage of the personnel deploying than normally is the case.  At these ceremonies it is customary for the chaplain to pray for our shipmates as well as their family members.  This deployment comes in the midst of monthly casualties reaching their highest point in the war and shortly after two US Navy sailors being killed when for whatever reason they left their base in Kabul in an up armored Toyota Land Cruiser and proceeded to drive alone to one of the most dangerous areas of the country.  With that in mind the safety of our shipmates is something that I and those that serve are ever mindful of when we send our people to deploy.  Yesterday I spent more time with the deploying sailors before and following the ceremony because so many were friends or close colleagues. The goodbyes from me this time were different as I will not be at Portsmouth when my friends return. My assignment as the Command Chaplain at Naval Hospital Camp LeJuene means that I won’t be there but I will continue to keep them in my prayers and stay in contact with as many as I can through e-mail or Facebook.  At LeJuene I will meet old friends from Portsmouth as well as from my Marine tours.  I will also get to deal with a lot more Marines and Sailors dealing with physical as well as psychological injuries resulting from their time in harm’s way in either Iraq or Afghanistan or in many cases both countries.

Pause for possible IED

It has been three years since I deployed to Iraq, in fact three years to the day yesterday that I arrived in Kuwait to complete final training before going into country.  When I was over in Iraq I was blessed my many expressions of support of many people, churches, schools and veterans groups.  At the same time I did not sense the overwhelming support of the people for our troops and that included many members of the political establishment that seemed more interested in using the war to advance their political objectives and unfortunately that was truly a bi-partisan endeavor.  Since we are an all volunteer force it seems to me that the only people really paying attention are people with sons, daughters, mothers or fathers or other family members or friends in harm’s way.  For others supporting the troops is little more than a bumper sticker affirmation, which I appreciate as at least most people aren’t damning us as so many did in Vietnam, a war that my dad served in and which as a Navy dependant experienced in the way that military families were treated by the protest set.

On Syrian Border with Iraqi Border Troops

Today I saw an article about an Army Lieutenant one Christopher Babcock http://gen-reading.blogspot.com/ at a tiny base in Afghanistan.  I often felt this way when in Iraq, especially those times that I came back into the large base that I operated from and saw various news channels on AFN including Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.  Much of what I saw coming out of the mouths of reporters or politicians, showed me just how out of touch and how little our leaders on both sides of the political divide, the media and the American public understood this war.

Convoy in Ramadi shortly before we took fire

My war experience was different. The places I went were the places most people never heard of or will ever hear about.  My assistant and I travelled thousands of miles in fixed and rotor wing aircraft as well as in many tiny poorly armed convoys in the badlands of Al Anbar Province to the small Iraqi bases where our advisors to the Iraqi Army and security forces worked.  In the assignment I got to know a decent number of Iraqi officers and even spoke to the first class of female Iraqi Police officers in training at Ramadi.  I believed then and now that Iraq will do well in the long run.  Back in 2007 very few people believed that, but having gotten to know many fine Iraqis I know that they will repair their country and move on with life. They have been at war in some way shape or form since 1980 and are war weary and most want to move on to live in peace and raise their children.

Guests of Major General Sabah of 7th Iraqi Division

I do not believe this to be the case in Afghanistan. History tells me that we will have no better outcome than the Soviets.  We lost our opportunity when we let up on the pressure in Afghanistan to concentrate on Iraq. The Taliban were able to rebuild and regain control of much of the country between the Iraq invasion and 2010.  I honestly don’t know if we as a nation have the wherewithal to win this war or the resources to do so.  Many outstanding Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen as well as personnel from the CIA perform heroic work on a daily basis but they do not have the numbers or resources to fight a successful counter-insurgency campaign when the Afghan people by and large hate the Karzai regime and cast their lot with the Taliban despite their miserable life under that brutal, medieval fundamentalist Islamic regime.

But we go on with each service sacrificing needed equipment and personnel to fund the war. Even now the Navy is going to be cut maybe up to 25,000 sailors without any mission decrease. Likewise there will be no let up of the use of Navy personnel as Individual Augments to Marine, Army or NATO forces in the Middle East and in other locations.  As it is the force seems to be stretched beyond belief with many sailors not only deploying in traditional at seas, Fleet Marine Force, Seabee or Special Operations billets but when they are supposedly on the downhill side in a shore billet are pulled to serve as an Individual Augment.   The Army and the Marines are worn down by constant deployments with no end in sight.  There are no new drafts of personnel, end strength is limited and the same people go back time and time again.  If I was told I needed to head to Afghanistan I would because that is where many of my friends are and as a Priest and Chaplain I could do no other, but I would go with no illusions about the mission, the risk or the likely outcome of the war. It would be the place to care for God’s people serving in harm’s way.

Brotherhood of War

While this is going on there is the ever present threat of war on the Korean Peninsula or with Iran. A war in either location would open yet another front in a worldwide conflict, when we are already stretched to the breaking point elsewhere.  Any conflict in those areas could generate more casualties in a short period of time than all the personnel that we have lost in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Goodbyes and prayers… I am sure that there will be more of both in my future.  I just ask my readers to keep their head in the game when it comes to the wars that we are in.  Don’t leave the troops on a bumper sticker but keep them in your hearts and prayers and serve them through your actions.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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I Have a Reserve Component Marriage: Lot’s of Time Married but Not So Much Together

The Abby Normal Abbess aka Judy and I were married back in June of 1983.  I had been in the military a bit under 2 years at that point and the week before had been commissioned as a very dashing U.S. Army Medical Service Corps Second Lieutenant without a single ribbon or medal to my name.  Now here are 26 years later plus some change and I am still in the military, albeit the Navy and though I work in a Medical Center no longer am a Medical Service Corps Officer but a Padre.

WeddingThe Beginning of a Reserve Component Marriage

One day a few years back, I think about 2002 when I was deployed for our anniversary, a common occurrence in our lives, I am actually getting better at being home for them, now up to 11 of 26 just two anniversaries under .500.

When I began to think about how much time I had been gone I realized that I was like a reservist in the marriage.  I have credit for all the years but my time actually with Judy is a lot less.  It’s like a reservist who comes into the military, does some active duty, goes back to the reserves and then drills, does various types of training and is occasionally activated.  For example of the 17 ½ years that I spent in the Army only about 7 and some change counts as “active” time.  I have missed so much time in our marriage to exercises, deployments, duty, travel and schools that I am not even going to try to count it all up.  I can only guess that it is somewhere between 40% and 50% of our marriage that I have not spent the night at home, which is everyone knows is how you get your marriage retirement points in.  If you don’t see them, eat with them and sleep with them you don’t get credit for the day.   In fact you are a reservist in your marriage for all intents and purposes.  I can say that I am still in some sense a reservist in my marriage, though I am doing a lot better than I used to do at it.  However it has taken a lot of work to try to break myself of bad habits, a process that patently is not finished as the Abbess can attest.

So I meet lots of military couples where one or sometimes both are in the military.  Sometimes, actually more often than I would like I meet them in times where the marriage is in crisis.  Like marriages that are coming apart at the seams really bad that are getting ready to be flushed down the toilet into the septic tank of poisoned divorces where no one is a winner kind except the divorce attorney kind of bad.  Wow, that was a really long sentence.  These are the kind of marriages that could with just a few tweaks and an agent end up on Dr Phil or the Deity Herself forbid, Jerry Springer.

Now most thankfully have not travelled that far down the road to perdition but can certainly see the off ramp to it.  It is usually at this point that one of them will come to me; after all I’m the Padre and not the Shrink.  Unfortunately for many there is a stigma in going to see the Shrink and the Padre is genuinely a good and acceptable choice to consult when the marriage has gone to spit.  God bless the Shrinks and I mean all varieties of them because I am not one, nor do I want to be one.  The Abbess herself has often suggested that I get another graduate degree in some kind of Shrinkology but as my favorite theologian Harry Callahan says “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I tip my ball cap to them because they have a difficult and often thankless job.  I’m happy to refer any time to my colleagues.

That being the case I try to get to know the couple by asking open ended questions and without being too intrusive let them tell me what is going on with just a little occasional nudging.  It is usually at this point that the military couple tells me that they have been married for X number of years but only been together for Y number of months, often widely separated by long and arduous deployments, training and work ups.  It is not uncommon to find that a young couple was married 3 years ago and one went in the military, went to a deploying unit or ship, did work ups and deployed and returning 6-15 months later.  In their post-deployment leave they have a brief honeymoon before all hell breaks loose.

So when they come to see me I draw an analogy for them…that of the reservist.  I say “Petty Officer and Mrs Schmuckatellisen, you know I think what we have here is that you a couple of reservists in your marriage trying to work things out.”  A look of confusion often follows, this is my intent as if I use some kind of clinical language at that point it will either not be heard or go over their heads.  Once that thrown on the table like a beer coaster at a bar I begin to explain it to them.  I say “you guys don’t know each other.  You have been married for X number of years but have only been together a small portion of the time….in effect you are like reservists in the military.  You enlisted X number of years ago but only spent Y amount of time together.  It’s no wonder you are having problems, you don’t know each other.”

When I do this sometimes there is a muted chuckle from the couple as the light bulb comes on and they realize that what they are going through is difficult but to be expected when you do not spend time with the one that you love.   I encourage them to take the time to get to know each other again, and ask if the still love each other.  Most often the blushing couple looks at each other and says that they do love each other.  I then work with them to find whatever resources that they need to get them over the hump and begin to get to know each other again.  Sometimes that means referral to a marriage and family therapist or some other kind of Shrink and sometimes it means that I help get them set up with communication skills classes, marriage enrichment retreats, and if needed recommend individual therapy to one or both if they have a lot of markers for potential divorce, such as being children of a divorce, having a family history of substance abuse, physical, emotional or sexual abuse committed by a parent, sibling or other family member.

Sometimes they will continue to see me though I limit my time to a few visits before referring them to someone who can do the deeper work to help them along.  Like I said up front, I know my limitations.  At the same time it is good to see one or both and hear that they are doing better once they started getting help.

So if you are in one of these struggling Reserve Component marriages take heart and get help.  There is no need to make the divorce attorneys any richer than they already are.

anniverary 2009Celebrating 26 Years together…sort of, maybe only about 14 really together

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: Of course I have the duty tonight which means that I need to spend some time with the Abbess tomorrow…Gordon Biersch and a Ball Game perhaps?

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Yet another Unexpected Death of a Shipmate and Probable Rough Seas Ahead

SCPO3DIn Memorium Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman D’Juana Hayes-Jones

This has been another difficult week at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.  Once again we experienced the unexpected and unsettling death of a beloved Shipmate. HMCS D’juna Hayes-Jones, the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Director of Nursing Services passed away early Wednesday morning of a massive Heart attack or another sudden catastrophic event.

I was just coming off of duty and conducting the duty turnover when the pager went off.  The chaplain relieving me took the page and came back saying that he had just been informed that we had lost yet another Shipmate and said that he had to go get more information.  I looked at our Deputy Department director and said: “I pray someone that I don’t know; I’m really tired of losing people that I know.”  A few minutes later my friend came back and gave us Senior Chief’s name.  I was pretty tired having come off a night with little sleep.  Initially I looked at him and the deputy and said; “I’m sure I know her but am trying to picture her face.”  We finished the turnover and I started to walk back up to the ICU when I clearly saw and remembered her face, which always had a friendly and caring expression.  I had just seen her and said hello the day before in one of the main hallways.  When this registered I simply said “shit, not another one, damn.”  This was the 5th active duty death that we have had since December.  I had met all five and had a decent number of interactions with three of the five.  Senior Chief was one that I had met a lot in the hallways, had frequent small conversations with and was involved quite heavily with when Senior Chief Pam Branum passed away on June 2nd of this year.  Additionally we had a civilian RN pass away and several civilians in our clinics.  The active duty deaths were all unexpected and tragic.  We have come close to losing a number of other shipmates who were very close to death but have since recovered.  With all the deployments added in we are all showing some strain with the loss of our friends and shipmates, so it is important to take care of each other because we don’t know what tomorrow brings.  With more deployments coming, a flu season that never ended and H1N1 looming on the horizon I fear that this will not be the last shipmate we lose this year.  I pray that I am wrong but my intuition tells me something different.  In the midst of this I am reminded that we must live to the fullest and not waste the life that God has given us. As Marcus Aurelius said “Execute every act of thy life as though it were thy last.”

Losing good people, who care for others, strive for excellence and serve faithfully who are younger than me, is getting old.  Senior Chief from what I had seen and heard was a great leader who really cared for her corpsmen and the nursing Staff.  She could always be found out among her corpsmen on the nursing units and clinics.  She was kind, fair and a caring teacher, coach and mentor to many corpsmen and nurses.  Her loss was met with stunned disbelief by those who knew her and who really have not yet fully recovered from the loss of Chief Branum.  Her death has shaken all of us who knew her, from the most senior officers and Chiefs, to the most junior corpsmen as well civilian staff.  I and most of our other chaplains have spent significant time with our shipmates since this happened.

Senior Chief Hayes-Jones would have had her retirement ceremony on August 28th.  She leaves behind two children, her husband and her shipmates.  We will have a memorial service for her next week; the date is still to be announced as of this post.

God bless you all and take care of each other as we once again walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Peace, Steve+

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