News: Retreat focuses on families of deployed Rakkasans
Story by Sgt. Alan Graziano
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – More than 40 family members of Soldiers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division attended a Strong Bonds retreat Dec. 7 to 9 here at the Sheraton Music City Hotel.
While most Strong Bonds retreats are geared toward either single soldiers or married couples, they mixed things up this time around by making the event exclusive for a more specific group.
“This particular retreat that we’re doing this weekend is a Strong Bonds for families of deployed soldiers,” said Capt. Angel Perez, a chaplain assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd BCT. “We’re providing them with skill sets that they need to have active relationships, even during their time of being separated because of deployments.”
According to Perez, the information taught over the course of the retreat does not only benefit the spouses and children, it also benefits the soldiers even while they are in Afghanistan.
“There are a good number of people who believe that when the home front is strong, it can provide a great level of support to soldiers downrange,” said Perez.
“They need to focus on their mission; if there are too many issues back home, their attention is being split into two places. By providing these programs to spouses, we are equipping them, strengthening them and encouraging them to become stronger.”
Many of the spouses in attendance have experienced multiple deployments, but one spouse said that she had not previously had the chance to take part in this specific type of event.
“This is our third deployment and this is the first time I’ve ever been through a deployment where they’ve offered a retreat for deployed families,” said Stephanie Cardoza, the spouse of Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Cardoza, a deployed platoon sergeant assigned to A Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
Cardoza said that she became interested in attending the retreat when she found out that the chaplain would be teaching a subject that she wanted to work on.
“The main topic that they put out was communication, and I thought that that was a great aspect to touch on, especially when communicating with a deployed spouse is so hard to do in the first place,” said Cardoza.
Perez summarized the communication lessons he taught at the retreat into three categories.
“In relationships, there are various communication styles, such as extroverts and introverts,” he said. “They are all unique in their own way, but they are also beneficial to one another. The other aspect is to understand why things upset us, the emotional aspects of how our brain operates and how we can have some control over the way our emotions feel and how we respond to those things.
The last lesson is to discover the good in other people through the assumption of goodwill, so that they don’t think that people are just out to get them when they experience something that upsets them, but rather that they may better understand the situation so they can respond adequately.”
After the spouses learned about communication, the spouses’ children in first grade and above were encouraged to participate in the class for a few hours to learn some of the same lessons.
“I thought it was great that they had it broken down to their level, and that’s something they were able to understand and take back with them,” said Cardoza.
Trent Cardoza, the 7-year-old son of Stephanie Cardoza, said that he enjoyed the children’s workshop and that he learned useful information.
“It was fun because we got to learn about the three parts of the brain,” he said.
He also said that the lessons he learned have not been taught to him in school, such as his extrovert communication style and how to be a better listener.
“It’s better to listen than to talk more because you can learn more if you listen more… If you talk instead of listening, you don’t learn the stuff that the teacher is talking about,” said Trent Cardoza.
Before the retreat had even ended, Stephanie Cardoza said that her new knowledge of effective communication had already made a difference.
“This weekend, a lot of our soldiers called,” she said. “It was nice that we could tell them what we were learning and have their response to it and what they thought, and we were able to expand on that. It was very beneficial and we will use the stuff that we learned here with our family.”
At the end of the retreat, Cardoza said that she was pleased with her experience and would like to see them continue so more spouses can enjoy the benefits involved.
“Getting away, being able to learn all this stuff and having child care so that you can pay attention is beneficial,” she said.
“I think they should keep them up because our soldiers have been going through so many deployments that the spouses enjoy and benefit from having these classes and retreats.”