Winter is a difficult time for many individuals. Due to shorter days of light, frigid temperatures and less time outdoors, many people can develop “SAD” also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), SAD is defined as “periods of depression that accompany seasonal changes during the year that usually begin in late fall and continue throughout the winter. It mostly affects women in their early to mid 20’s along with some men.” The main treatment for SAD is light therapy, so with the arrival of Spring and Summer our moods tend to elevate. We also feel happy with the thought of vacation and spending more time off with our loved ones.
Summer is the time when military families who have been dealing with multiple moves, extended deployments, training operations and mobilizations can do more traveling. It’s time to take that leave! Changing environments with your loved ones and reconnecting in a new setting that provides fun and relaxation can be very therapeutic for the entire family.
I asked military spouses in a survey on my Facebook page where they preferred to go on their summer break. Many of them who have children enjoyed going places they could afford or even pay cash for. For many, this included staying close to home and finding things that were new to them in their area. Since most military families are usually living in locations that are new to them, playing tourist for the summer can be fun. One Army wife of a Staff Sergeant in the Washington, DC area said they visit children’s museums close by that offer hands on activities for kids. They also enjoy discounts at local aquariums, Sea World, Bush Gardens and Disney World because of their Active Duty status.
Another affordable option is renting a time share through the Armed Forces Vacation Club. The AFVC can provide information on hotels and military resorts such as Hale Koa in Hawaii, Edelweiss in Germany and Shades of Green in Orlando, FL. These are a few of the favorite getaways of an Army Captain and his spouse living in the Savannah, GA area. They also noted that most airlines and cruises honor a military discount along with many tourist sites. You just have to ask!
Many spouses who want to get away for a romantic vacation look to retreats to improve bonding and communication with their spouse. With multiple separations plaguing military relationships, it is important to reignite the relationship by remembering who you were as a couple when you first met. Couples tend to forget who they fell in love with when they are separated for months to years at a time. Getting away with your spouse always helps enhance those feelings of love as you re-learn skills to improve your marriage.
Here are some retreats provided by the website About.com Guide: Military Families (Author Kim Wilson) that you can research in your area to see if it’s appropriate for you and your spouse.
1. Coming Home Project: for OIF/OEF service members in the San Antonio, San Francisco and Washington, DC area.
2. Compass Retreat Center: a week-long camp in Seymour, Indiana for Reservists and Guardsmen and their families who have served in OIF/OEF for at least six months.
3. Operation Oasis, sponsored by Sandy Cove Ministries: free retreats for service members and their spouses.
4. Operation Purple, sponsored by the National Military Family Association: A four-day program for military families coming off deployment and who have been home for at least 3 months but no longer than 15 months.
5. Project New Hope: helps families with post-deployment reintegration issues. A three-day program is held in Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York for combat veterans and their families.
6. Project Sanctuary: emphasizes an effort to strengthen marital and familial bonds after deployment. A free six-day, five-night retreat held in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado is offered on a first come, first serve basis.
7. Strong Bonds: provided by the U.S. Army and conducted off-post in a retreat-style environment. These are Chaplain-led programs for couples, families or individual soldiers. You can visit the website or talk to your unit’s Chaplain.
You can always search for workshops and retreats that are unit-based and local. Most communities that have a high military population usually host events with a focus on military marriages and their family members. Enjoy your summer whether it’s with your entire family or on your dream romantic getaway.
YOU deserve it!!!
Meryl DeLena, LCSW is an accomplished Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Military Marital Consultant. She has over ten years’ case management, clinical and group therapy experience with children and adults. She specializes in programs related to anxiety, PTSD, deployment issues and reintegration stressors for military spouses and families. An author and public speaker, she administers a Facebook page, Supporting Military Spouses and Their Relationships, to help military spouses. A graduate of Florida State and Florida International Universities, Meryl is a member of national and state mental health professional associations. Meryl can be contacted through her website www.meryldelena.com or as an Expert Therapist at Choosehelp.com. Meryl makes her home in South Florida with her husband who is a Special Operations Army Disabled Veteran.