FORT BENNING, Ga. - Panama City Beach, Fla., is roughly 200 miles southwest of Kelley Hill, Fort Benning, Ga., but it may as well have been a million miles away as 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, soldiers and spouses flocked to the coastal town to celebrate their relationships Dec. 2.
The getaway was part of a chaplain-sponsored program designed to bring married couples closer together and used the “Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage” program material from renowned pastor and speaker Mark Gungor.
“This place provides a venue, away from work and the stresses of day to day life,” said Maj. Geoff Bailey, the 3rd HBCT chaplain.
For the attendees, the venue was almost as important as the topics covered during their stay.
“This helps,” said Katie Richardson, wife of Spc. Joseph Richardson, Company D, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd HBCT. “Events like this that bring us away from post and take the worries of everyday life out of the equation.”
Taking everyday life away and focusing on being a couple was what the weekend was all about.
“Coming here is a chance to be closer to one another,” said Richardson. “We can connect on an emotional level.”
The retreat established a connection that will endure beyond three days in Florida.
“Just listening to him [Gungor] talk, he definitely gave me some insight in to my marriage,” said Spc. Adam Carroll, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd HBCT. “I definitely will bring his insights home with me.”
For the religious leader of Kelley Hill, this trip was about fulfilling a mission he holds close to his heart.
“There is an unwritten contract between the U.S. Army and the American people,” said Bailey. “We will return soldiers back to society in as good or better condition as when they came in. This is my piece in total soldier health.”