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    'Life After War': Help for returning veterans

    4:43 PM, Feb 23, 2012   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The Crowne Plaza Hotel in West Little Rock is a long way from the war zone and that's a welcome relief to the 50 married couples here.

    Questions like, 'In the movie Top Gun, what game was being played that caused all the pilots to have to flex between shots?' and 'How many calories do you burn while kissing?' kick off the Saturday morning "Strong Bonds" retreat.

    Arkansas National Guardsmen and their spouses are laughing, learning, and growing together. But the fun and games of the three day weekend camouflage a deeper goal.

    "Facing life or death issues, training in some very intense environments, that's things that you won't find normal couples doing," says Captain Jeremy Miller, the full-time support chaplain for the Arkansas National Guard.

    He spends one weekend a month teaching guardsmen and their spouses how to create and keep a healthy marriage.

    "Communication. We want that to be the key. How do they speak to each other? What do they talk about? What do they argue about? How do they argue?" says Cpt. Miller.

    Staff Sergeant Brandon Marvel and his wife Krystal have been married for three years and while Brandon has served two previous tours, his third was a first for Krystal.

    "Whenever they leave, you still think that maybe it's not necessarily true and that they are going to walk right through the door any minute but they don't," says Krystal.

    Brandon returned home just two months ago.

    "You have the attraction again, you have all those instant love thoughts," says Brandon. But the stress of daily life did not take long to build up.

    "The honeymoon phase of coming back home ends abruptly and you have to find that common ground where both of you can communicate again," says Brandon.

    Krystal signed them up for the all expense paid 'Strong Bonds' retreat.

    "I was able to find out a little bit more about his personality and some of that changes too whenever they're gone and they come back," says Krystal.

    She says they are learning how to adjust to a life together again instead of thousands of miles apart.

    "They may be more easily frustrated so you're able to find out a little bit more how to handle that," says Krystal.

    "We've had multiple couples that have gone through this program before deployments and even come back after deployments. They said it made them even stronger. They learned how to communicate, they learned when they have their pre-deployment fights, when they have their mid-deployment fights and how to work through those things, how to just keep talking," says Cpt. Miller.

    Talking the right way is something Brandon says has been a challenge.

    "I'm a staff sergeant. I had people under me and I'm very direct. I tell them what I need and I expect it to get done. It doesn't work when you're telling your wife," says Brandon jokingly.

    "Yeah, and then I have to be a little bit more understanding as to what kind of atmosphere that he's been in because I've never been in that type of atmosphere or environment at all," says Krystal.

    "We tell ourselves the false lie that we fell out of love and what we did was we eroded it away constantly and we never took care of it," says Cpt. Miller.

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