Counselor: Deployments leave marks when personnel return

CNJ Staff Photo: Tony Bullocks A local family counselor says deployments can be hard on families before, during and after the deployment period.

By Sharna Johnson, CNJ staff writer

Family counselor Kathy Woodard braces for busy days at her Clovis office when Cannon Air Force Base personnel return from a deployment.

Over the weekend almost 300 Cannon airmen returned from a deployment. More than 400 are still in various deployed locations, base officials said.

Deployments can amplify or reveal tough issues a couple or family is facing, or create new ones altogether, Woodard said.

“We don’t have a recipe book that tells us exactly what different families are going to experience,” Woodard said. “Each family is unique. It has its own strengths and weaknesses.”

The children may begin acting out at home or in school, or there may be disagreements about running the household, she said. In addition, a returning service member can feel overwhelmed or even left out, she said.

“We have to move over and make way again for the parent that hasn’t been here,” said Woodard, the wife of a retired airman who served during Vietnam. “It’s probably one of the biggest adjustments families go through.”

Other adjustments include loss of deployment incentive pay and possibly recovery from combat, she said.

Cannon’s Family Readiness Flight provides families and members with resources before, during and after deployments.

Technical Sgt. Tory Gard said the base has mental health providers, chaplains, legal advisors, health and wellness counselors, Internet resources, a confidential telephone counseling service, literature and other resources.

“(The resources) let people know things are not going to be normal when you get home, but that’s OK; they’re not supposed to be,” Gard said.

Active duty members are required to attend a family readiness briefing when they return from deployment and families are encouraged to attend, too, he said.

Jackie Hoppe, a Clovis wife of a retired Air Force member, said as a mother of five, she went through four deployments with her husband.

Hoppe said she and her husband relied on military friends for help back then, and try to do the same for friends who are still active duty.

“You all belong to the same (military) family. That really comes into it when the guys deploy,” she said.

Woodard said efforts to help should be proactive from community, friends, coworkers, employers, teachers and extended family.
She said the alternatives — poor job performance, lost jobs, falling school grades, emotional strife, divorce and domestic violence — affect the whole community.

“This is not something (where) we need to just suck it up and go on,” she said. “We pride ourselves in saying we appreciate the military in our community. Well, now is the time to show it.”