Stronger Families Boards the USS Eisenhower to Help Strengthen Relationships

OXYGEN takes its maiden voyage aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, nicknamed MIGHTY IKE

by Jaci Walcott, Stronger Families Master Level Trainer and Military Spouse

PORTSMOUTH, VIRGINIA

Being in the military is challenging, being deployed is difficult, and being assigned to a ship in dry dock has its own unique dynamics. Being part of all three can be very trying on a marriage! The USS Eisenhower, now 40 years old, has been in dry dock for more than six months for PIA, which is an extended period of deep maintenance and modernization that will ensure the Mighty Ike is combat-ready, with up-to-date warfighting systems. 

Avoiding Distractions

Even in dry dock, the ship is bustling. The deafening sounds of workers conducting repairs and grinding machinery are a constant. The PIA takes 419,419 man-days worth of work, equivalent to 3,355,352 contractor and ship’s force man-hours. Despite all this, many sailors made the time to attend one or more of the four OXYGEN classes held aboard ship. 

As the instructor, I had a hard time adjusting to all of the noise and outside commotion. However, the sailors in attendance are so used to it, they said they hardly even heard it! The more than eighty service members who attended were thirsty for solid information and ideas to strengthen their relationships, most of whom were struggling with various challenges.

“This Really Works!”

One young woman told me that she and her husband of three years never talked without fighting. She was excited to try the Couplelogue that evening to see if they could talk without the yelling and anger. She came the next day to the second OXYGEN class very excited. “This really works! I told my husband what you taught us about communicating with empathy and we walked through the Couplelogue tool. We talked for 45 minutes and didn’t raise our voices even once! We actually listened to each other.”

A Sailor Finds Hope

Another sailor told me that he and his wife have been separated for several weeks, and it has broken his heart. He said that they had a long phone conversation the night before and, for the first time, he is encouraged that there might be hope. After the class on Love Styles, he is even more encouraged! He feels like a “light went on” regarding why he and his wife aren’t connecting. He said they had both been trying, but it wasn’t working. Now he has some new relationship tools that are specific and practical that he hopes they can begin to implement together.

Serving Together

I encountered many hurting relationships during my time aboard the Mighty Ike. Yet, after the four classes, there is so much hope for things to change for the better. I am so thankful for Chaplain Stennett, who arranged all the details for the OXYGEN classes, and for Stronger Families, the USO, and their donors for their incredible support for the men and women who serve in the U.S. Navy. I consider it a true honor to serve these sailors and their families.

“This really works! We walked through the Couplelogue tool. We talked for 45 minutes and didn’t raise our voices even once. We actually listened to each other. – Navy Couple, USS Eisenhower

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is nearly finished with its scheduled maintenance and modernization.

Jaci on the deck of Mighty Ike.

OXYGEN attendees fill out an action plan and survey after the course on Breaking Barriers to Communication

Your Gift to Military Couples: Quality Time Together to Reconnect and Grow

Between duties and deployments, finding quality time to strengthen a marriage and cultivate intimacy is a huge challenge among the men and women serving in the military today.  

FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS

Chaplain Caleb Schumacher who joined the U.S. Army reserves in 2005 and transferred to active duty in 2012, first met Jenny through an online ministry. They dated for a short time, meeting in five different states – Kansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina – before marrying in August 2015. They admit to doing everything chaplains instruct their soldiers NOT to do, but Caleb and Jenny are walking by faith and not by sight. Here is their OXYGEN story:

Seeking Support

Finding time to cultivate intimacy seemed nearly impossible. We needed help. With duties and deployments, we were feeling lost. we decided to attend an OXYGEN Seminar as a couple seeking enrichment. My husband is a chaplain and we were always supporting others, but now, we needed the support

Changing the Tide

“The OXYGEN seminar gave us the help we needed. I’ll never forget the emotions I saw on my husband’s face as our facilitator led us through one of the empathy sessions. For the first time in a long while, I recognized his struggles and he recognized mine. We had finally, after a really hard season, connected!

“Our decision to work on our marriage changed the tide of our relationship. We believe so much in this program that my husband got me trained to be an OXYGEN facilitator and we invited couples from our battalion to attend. Thank you! You have impacted many families because you showed up when it was needed most.”

“You have impacted many families because you showed up when it was needed most. – CH Caleb Schumacher and Jenny Reese Clark-Schumacher

CH Caleb Schumacher and Jenny Reese Clark-Schumacher

Caleb and Jenny work through an activity together during the OXYGEN seminar.

Honoring a Hero's Sacrifice

The Month of May brings many opportunities for you to honor those who serve our country.

Our Military and First Responders are our national and local heroes. Many of these brave men and women experience unique stressors in their relationships because they live lives of service. Your support of Stronger Families allows us to step alongside these heroes and offer hope and tools to strengthen their relationships and families

Honoring the Ultimate Sacrifice

The last Monday in May is a solemn one, particularly for those whose loved ones gave their lives for our nation’s freedom. Memorial Day was originally celebrated as Decoration Day – proclaimed in 1868 by General John Logan, a Northern commander in the Civil War– as a day to honor those who laid down their lives to defend their country in the Civil War. In 1971, it was declared a national holiday to honor the dead of all America’s wars. As a nation, we continue the tradition of honoring those who gave their lives for our country. You can also use this day to honor those who have not given their lives, but continue to sacrifice to keep our nation safe and free. This includes active duty soldiers and veterans, as well as their loved ones who take care of them when they return home.

Remember Our Fallen Officers

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week. Currently, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the world come together in Washington, DC, to participate in organized events that honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Thanking Those That Help in Crisis

May 20-26, 2018, is the 44th annual National EMS week. In 1974, President Gerald Ford authorized EMS week to celebrate EMS practitioners and the important work they do in our nation’s communities. EMS Week brings together local communities and medical personnel to honor the dedication of those who provide the day-to-day lifesaving services of medicine’s “front line.” It is our privilege and honor to serve those who sacrifice for our freedom and safety. So, seek out ways to say a big THANK YOU to our municipal and military heroes–and their spouses and families, too!

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the courage to surpass others at whatever cost, but the courage to serve others at whatever the cost. – Arthur Ashe

Army Couples Get a Marriage Boost - From You!

Fort Campbell, home of the Screaming Eagles is now home to 38 new OXYGEN graduates! 

“I can honestly say that the OXYGEN couples seminar is a fantastic program! You really learn a lot about how to make your relationship with your spouse stronger. It also teaches you how to appreciate your spouse on a completely different level. Thank you!” Elaina Brooks, US Army Spouse, Fort Campbell, KY

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