How often do you hear of divorce, separations and suicide triggered by miscommunication or neglect of key Family issues? I can say from experience, it is not easy. Every day life and the “rut” Families sometimes get into amidst busy work schedules, kids’ extracurricular activities and daily commitments, can take a toll on relationships.

This was the case of the Rayford household and it was easy to see we needed something to help rebuild the strength of our Family.

Fortunately, the Army believes that when you have healthy relationships, you have a healthier Army. Enter, the Strong Bonds program that was created and instituted across U.S. Army installations.

My husband, Jeff, and I have attended quite a few Strong Bonds events and we are huge advocates for the program. While at Fort Bragg, we have had the opportunity to go to Raleigh, Carolina Beach and Myrtle Beach for Strong Bonds retreats. Each retreat was instrumental in strengthening our Family a little more each time. The events gave us time to relax and escape our everyday rut and focus on what istruly important — Family.

According to Chaplain (Maj.) Ralph Clark, Fort Bragg Garrison Family life chaplain, Watters Family Life Center, the program was designed to strengthen the individual Soldier’s support systems through relationship education and communication skill training.

When we first heard about the retreats, I heard negative things like, “It’s boring training,” “It’s church,” and “You don’t have time to relax.” All of those assessments are far from the truth in our opinion.

The mission of the Strong Bonds program is to increase Soldier and Family readiness through relationship education and skills training and that is exactly what happens. The program uses fun, interactive ways to discuss hard topics in a light-hearted, positive way.

One thing my husband liked was the humor woven throughout the program. We all laugh about the differences between a man and a woman but the program introduces the idea and allows Families to discuss it without anyone getting offended because.

Through these exercises, we became more aware of each other because sometimes you become immune to your partners faults and strengths. Sometimes you just roll with the punches.

A part of the Strong Bonds program that, in my opinion, is essential, is the fellowship during the events. You get Families, just like us, talking about their lives. Military Families have many similarities and experiences and the Strong Bonds program creates an environment whereby you communicate and share stories, which in the end can assist your Family with any underlying issues you may have.

Additionally, one of my favorite things, is the “escape” that the retreats provide. They are designed to allow Soldiers and their Families a few days away from home, while providing great relationship building information. For my husband and me, the escape was the initial selling factor. But, as we drove back to Fort Bragg, we realized it was so much more. My marriage and my Family structure was given a breath of fresh air.

“The program is a success,” said Clark. “We have seen a heightened sense of awareness within the relationships of Strong Bonds participants and that’s a success.”

I fully recommend Families take full advantage of the programs the Army provides. They helped my Family and they might be able to help yours too.

For more information about the Strong Bonds program or upcoming events on Fort Bragg, visit www.strongbonds.org or see your unit chaplain.