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Guard couples gather to strengthen marriages

Guard couples gather to strengthen marriages

March 30th, 2013 by Nathan Dampf, for the News Tribune in News

Spec. Duskey Graham, a traditional small arms repair specialist, and his wife Shana discuss the "Speaker-Listener" technique at the Strong Bonds retreat held at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, Mo., on March 23. "A good marriage is always learning. It changes and you have to do it together," said Spec. Graham.

More than 25 married Missouri National Guard couples took part in the Army's Strong Bonds marriage retreat held Friday through Sunday at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach.

The retreat gave Guard members and their spouses the chance to learn communication techniques, discover how to show love and discuss expectations for love within the marriage.

"What I hope attendees will come away with is awareness for when they have difficulty communicating in their marriages, what might be behind that," said Chaplain Capt. Christopher Bryan, the Strong Bonds presenter. "And, we try to give them one tool they can go to consistently when they have problems."

Spc. Dusky Graham, a traditional small-arms repair technician at the combined support maintenance shop, attended the Strong Bonds event. He and his wife live in Russellville and have two children.

"A good marriage is always learning," said Graham. "It changes and you have to do it together."

Graham and his wife, Shana, joked about the "speaker-listener" session that taught participants how to solve conflict. During that portion of the retreat, the "listeners" were taught to listen to the spouse's concerns and paraphrase those concerns back to the "speaker." When the "speaker" is done communicating the point of his or her concerns, that individual passes a magnetic description of the "speaker-listener" method to the original "listener," so the roles are reversed.

"When we get home, this is going on the fridge," said Shana Graham. "Paraphrasing was one of the things we'll take away from this weekend. Learning how not to assume, but clarifying without making your own assumptions is good for anybody."

The Grahams admitted they tried attending last year, but were unable. They attended the event this year with friends Sgt. Erik Brodin and his wife, Jeannie.

"We had a real great time the first time we were here," said Jeannie Brodin. "Not only were we able to get away from the everyday, but we were able to take home with us a skill we can use to try and keep our marriage on the upside and help work through our problems."

Sgt. Brodin, who is a full-time small-arms repair technician at the CSMS building in Jefferson City, said even though they had attended a Strong Bonds retreat before, he and his wife were able to get more out of this event.

"You can catch something you didn't catch the first time," said Sgt. Brodin. "I'm better now at paraphrasing than I was last time. And, with different leaders, you got a different person's perspective."

The Brodins and Grahams were two of 25 couples that made the event a full-booking, said Kay Calton from the Family and Warrior Support office.

The Strong Bonds program is open to all Army Soldiers in the active, reserve or Guard components. FWS will host another married couples' event in April, and a singles event in June, which will focus on skills for building a relationship, managing expectations and making healthy choices to find the right partner. All costs are covered for the soldier and spouse. Childcare is also provided.

No matter what kind of marriage a Guardsman may be in, Bryan, who is with the 1-129th Field Artillery Regiment in Maryville, says a Strong Bonds retreat will benefit any attendee.

"We get couples of all types," said Bryan. "The type we see most frequently is the couple who has been married more than five years, has run into challenges in life, and is looking for fresh ideas to renew their marriage. This is an opportunity to give everyone the opportunity to build strength in their own marriage."

Couples wishing to attend the April event and singles wishing to attend the June event should contact the Family and Warrior Support office in Jefferson City at (573) 638-9500, ext. 7681.

Accompanying photo: Duskey and Shana Graham