CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
“Who better to help a spouse but another spouse who has been there and done that?”
This was the thought Tracie Newman and the other Family Readiness Officers with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group had when they began to organize a unique event they called Cheers, Tears and Fears.
The informal discussion was held at the Officer’s Club aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 26.
“[We] wanted spouses to have a place and a chance to ask questions freely about the emotional side of enduring a deployment,” Newman explained. “We wanted them to be able to share their experiences with each other in a positive forum to learn how to not only survive, but to thrive, during a deployment.”
Those in attendance ranged from new military spouses to “seasoned” spouses who endured up to six deployments during their marriage. Newman explained how both the new and veteran deployment spouses could be involved and benefit from the discussions. She described how everyone had the potential to hear things they might not have and how everyone could learn something from each other’s experiences.
“Spouses who experienced many deployments are given the chance to share the experience and help someone,” Newman continued. “It is a chance to make a friend, but also more importantly, to be a friend and offer support to someone who needs it.”
The regimental sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Paul A. Berry, also stressed the camaraderie and relationships built by events like this.
“None of us, Marine, or spouse, or family member should ever feel alone or isolated in anything we do,” he said during his introduction to the group.
Within the first 30 minutes of the meeting, friendships were forged. Individuals who never met prior to the evening were laughing and crying together, hugging and exchanging phone numbers.
“While pre-deployment and return-and-reunion briefs are important, with great information, it is a lot to absorb, and there is never really time to just ask those more personal, emotional questions,” continued Newman. “They also know whatever they say here will be received with compassion, empathy and positive advice.”
Emotional questions came pouring forth, ranging from last will and testaments to communication, pre-deployment preparation and post-deployment celebrations.
Even as difficult topics were broached, the environment remained friendly and comfortable.
“I would stress it isn’t a pre-deployment brief or a return-and-reunion brief, or any kind of brief at all,” Newman said when asked how she would describe the overall event. “We create a safe atmosphere for any questions, where no feeling or emotion is wrong. They are free to speak and ask questions without fear of embarrassing their Marine or sailor, or being embarrassed themselves.”
The importance of informed spouses supporting each other with the help of events like Cheers, Tears and Fears can be summed up by a statement made by the commanding officer of CLR-2, Col. Yori Escalante.
“A ready family makes a ready Marine,” said Escalante. “If the family is ready for the Marine to deploy then the Marine is ready to deploy, because then he or she knows his family back home is going to be able to make it through the deployment.”
Feedback from the attendees ranged from “this rocked” to a suggestion to extend the event by an hour next time, because there was so much more to talk about.
“That was the best outcome I could have imagined,” Newman said. “It was two full hours of great discussion, and they wanted more. Overall, the feedback was positive and enthusiastic.”
Newman concluded, “We will continue to hold these events and hope it will be better each time.”
For more information, contact your unit's FRO or Tracie Newman at 910-450-6660.