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When Johnny/Joanie Comes Marching Home

Extended separation from family by a military spouse can either strengthen or negatively impact marriage and family relationships. Prior to the Persian Gulf War, the armed forces seldom addressed the impact of deployments, combat, and reunions on families.

Chaplain (Colonel) Gary R. Councell, U.S. Army retired, currently serving as associate director/military endorser of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

Extended separation from family by a military spouse can either strengthen or negatively impact marriage and family relationships. Prior to the Persian Gulf War, the armed forces seldom addressed the impact of deployments, combat, and reunions on families. With the help of concerned chaplains and commanders, families worked out issues associated with military mission requirements. Today, the United States Department of Defense gives increasing attention to this readiness factor. Several books and programs are available about reunions of military personnel with their families. When Johnny/Joanie Comes Marching Home, by Chaplain Les Westling, is a most helpful resource and one worth reading.

Dr. Westling provides invaluable insights for ministering to the emotional, relational, and spiritual needs that separations can cause. He addresses the deeper concerns often masked by surface behavior without attempting to be analytical. Deployments, combat, and extended separations cause changes. Those changes affect relationships and cannot be ignored. Separations also create uncertainty and apprehension. Couples who prepare, communicate, and live responsibly discover their marital and family bonds actually grow stronger. Hope, respect, and trust counteract the negative impacts of separation and change.

Writing from more than a quartercentury of naval deployments and combat experience, Chaplain Westling shares a succinct and practical guide for care-givers who counsel reuniting military families. He does not give a checklist of things to do or avoid. Rather, he alerts counselors to issues often mistakenly attributed to post-traumatic stress disorder or critical incident stress. Given some supportive assistance, Westling believes most military families can work through the challenges of separations and reunions.

The book packs a wealth of professional care concepts in its welldocumented 117 pages. Part two offers detailed pre-reunion seminars for spouses at home and returning groups. A CD complete with illustrations is also included. Pastors and military families alike will find reunions less problematic after reading When Johnny/Joanie Comes Marching Home.


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Chaplain (Colonel) Gary R. Councell, U.S. Army retired, currently serving as associate director/military endorser of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.

January 2007

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