While we pay a great deal of attention to pre-deployment preparation, the Marine’s re-
turn from deployment can be just as stressful—sometimes more so. During the deploy-
ment, you have changed, as have your family, friends, and spouse. You have taken on
new responsibilities and developed confidence in the absence of your spouse. Regard-
less of the length of the separation, the service member and the family will go through a
period of adjustment upon return.
Remember to take things slowly. Reunion is not an event, but a process, which will re-
quire time and effort. Having concerns about the reintegration of your Marine into your
family again is normal. The keys to a successful reunion are flexibility and patience.
This is your workbook to use before, during, and after your reunion to assist you in your
This time is critical in preparing the hearts and minds of your loved ones for a success-
ful and healthy family reunion.
The staffs of MCCS programs including Marine Corps Family Team Building and Marine
and Family Services are with you every step of the way. Please note the abundance of
resources provided to at the end of this workbook.
Through planning, patience, and love, you can better prepare your family for the issues
that may surround homecoming.
Be proud of yourself! You have:
held your family together!
displayed pride and patriotism!
allowed your Marine to focus on the mission!
You’ve not only survived; you’ve accomplished much!
Stress is a physical and/or mental response to an event or occurrence. It is the pres-
sure and tension you feel when faced with a situation that is new, unpleasant, or threat-
ening. Many different situations can trigger stress. These situations or incidents are
called stressors. Stress is automatic when our body feels demand or danger.
Stress affects everyone, and some stress can actually be helpful. Stressors are normal
parts of life that are essential for helping us learn and grow. Some people like to experi-
ence challenging situations that spark a little stress in their life. Without stress, life
could be boring.
Stress often pushes us forward in life. It helps us to cram for exams, finish a
project, or clean the house before company arrives. Stress helps us to win
contests and races, ace a test or job interview. Stress is often the very thing
that helps us to make necessary changes in our life like leaving a bad rela-
tionship or moving on to a better job opportunity.
What causes stress?
Many different situations can cause stress: the sound of an alarm clock, traffic, noisy
places, demands from work, demands at home, finances, children’s behavior, and other
situations that you may face in your day to day life. And of course:
You should be concerned when…
However, too much stress can lead to many problems. Stress releases hormones that
prepare us for action (to fight or take flight). Prolonged exposure to situations that pro-
duce stress can have negative consequences on your body. You may start to experi-
ence health problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, muscle tension, upset
stomach, or heartburn, and it can even lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Which of these stress symptoms you have experienced during the de-
Fatigue Anger Sleepless Nights Anxiety
Change in Skin Condition Fear Change in Appetite
Guilt Elevated Blood Pressure Overwhelmed Feelings
Sweaty Palms Frustration Heart Racing Irritability
Chest Pain Shame Lower Back Pain
Confusion Soreness in Muscles Forgetfulness
Faintness or Dizziness Poor Judgment Headaches
Jumpiness Hyperactivity Obsessive Thoughts
Increase use of Alcohol Increase use of Tobacco
Trembling Daydreaming Increase in Allergies and Colds
Your Marine has been under stress too. However, the stressors your Marine has experi-
enced are different from yours. Combat stress is the body’s reaction to combat or war.
It is different from “regular stress” due to the intensity and duration.
The Marine Corps views operational stress along a continuum. Each zone represents
how a Marine functions under each level of stress.
Many Marines under stress still fight well and complete all their essential duties. The
signs are normal responses to combat danger, uncertainty, and the environment. It is
common for some symptoms to persist after the Marine return home.
What can you do?
Take things slowly and be patient
Encourage communication, but don’t force it
Let your Marine know you are there for him/her
A period of readjustment following the Marine’s return is normal, but if you
see that stress is affecting sleep, motivation, and judgment, as well as the
Marine’s ability to function socially or on the job, then additional outside
help may be needed.
Stress symptoms become warning signs if prolonged, excessive,
or a sudden change from the individual’s usual style.
Not all combat operational stress symptoms add up to PTSD. It takes a certain set of
stress injury symptoms, for a prolonged period of time, severe enough to affect job per-
formance and relationships, plus a formal diagnosis by a qualified doctor, to be called
Although researchers don't know exactly what causes post-traumatic stress disorder,
they do know some of the risk factors involved, or the things that make someone more
likely to get PTSD.
People of all ages can have post-traumatic stress disorder. It's relatively common
among adults, with about 7 percent to 8 percent of the population having PTSD at some
point in their lives. In any given year, about 5 million U.S. adults have PTSD. Post trau-
matic stress disorder is especially common among those who have served in combat,
and it's sometimes called "shell shock" or "battle fatigue."
People with PTSD most often experience one or more of these four types of traumatic
Seeing someone being killed or badly injured
Living through a fire, flood, or natural disaster
Living through a life-threatening accident
Having been in combat
But many other traumatic events can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, includ-
ing rape, mugging, robbery, assault, civil conflict, car accident, plane crash, torture, kid-
napping, life-threatening medical diagnosis, childhood physical abuse or neglect, sexual
molestation, being threatened with a weapon, terrorist attacks, and other extreme or life-
However, not everyone who experiences these kinds of traumatic events goes on to de-
velop post-traumatic stress disorder. Some factors that may make a person more likely
to get PTSD after a traumatic event include:
The traumatic event is especially severe or intense.
The traumatic event was long-lasting.
Having an existing mental health condition
Lacking a good support system of family and friends
Having family members with PTSD
Having family members with depression
It's normal to have a wide range of feelings and emotions after a traumatic event. The
feelings may include fear and anxiety, a lack of focus, sadness, changes in sleeping or
eating habits, or bouts of crying that come easily. The person may have recurrent night-
mares or thoughts about the event, but this doesn't mean they have post-traumatic
However, if these disturbing feelings are experienced for more than a month, if they're
severe, or if the person feels they are having trouble getting their life back under control,
they should consider talking to a health care professional.
Where Can I Go To Get Help?
Active duty Marines and family members can contact their unit chaplain (466-4000), unit
mental health team, or primary medical provider.
All family members and Marines can contact the Military One Source at https://
www.militaryonesource.com and register for a free account.
Free confidential counseling (up to 12 free sessions) in the civilian
community is available.
Call toll free 1-800-342-9647
International: access code + 800-3429-6477
(all 11 digits must be dialed)
Por Español llame: 1-877-888-0727
Marine and Family Services counselors and staff are also available to assist with the
needs of active duty members and their families. You can contact Marine and Family
Services at 466-4401.
and stay involved
to cope during these challenges.
Stress Reducing Tips
If you are one of the millions of stressed-out Americans, there’s
good news. People can learn to manage stress.
Start with these 10 tips:
*Accept that there are events you cannot control.
*Learn and practice relaxation techniques.
*Keep a positive attitude.
*Seek out social support.
*Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
*Learn to manage your time more effectively.
*Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
*Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
*Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover
from stressful events.
*Be assertive instead of aggressive. “Assert” your feelings, opin-
ions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
Michael W. Smith, MD
“Children express their knowledge and understanding of situations, con-
cepts, and people in nonverbal ways before they can articulate. Understand-
ing these important channels of communication can help parents and pro-
fessionals working with children facilitate children's learning and develop-
As a parent what challenges have you faced? T h e
is a ma-
j o r
T h e y
Crying or looking sad Fre-
h a v e
Being down on self
Hurting others or self sea
Clinging to adults
Clinging to security items like a blanket
Regression in potty training
Withdrawing from others
Stop doing things they know how to
such as writing, reading, talking, etc.
Stop doing things they once enjoyed
Drop in grades
Daydreams, can't concentrate
What challenges and/or stress symptoms have your
children exhibited? Educational
Breathing Exercises Drawing Pictures Journaling
Talking about problems with a trusted friend or adult
Playing with and Caring for Pets Sports and Exercise Giving HUGS!
Art therapy, drawing, or coloring can be effective means for
children to articulate their feelings.
It’s important to teach children skills like optimistic thinking, and to trust in themselves
and in the world. Finally, it’s important for parents to remember that even our children
need some 'down time' to explore their interests and the world, to learn more about
themselves, to form friendships, and to just be children.
Elizabeth Scot, M.S.
can be a
Fear, shyness, anger, and excitement are all common reactions.
It is not uncommon for children living in the same house to have different reactions.
What is a happy and exciting time for one may be traumatic to another. Plan ahead!
Tips for Assisting Your Child with Reunion
Be gentle and fun; sit at their level
Do not expect an infant to recognize the par-
Listen; accept their feelingsa long deploy-
ent who has returned from Teenagers
Reinforce your love; ask about their interests
Great Tips for The child will warm up
Relax and be patient. All Families!
Listen with undivided attention, and do not be
at his/her own pace.
Take it Slow Respect privacy and friends
Have a Back Up Plan Do not tease about fashion, music, etc.
What forms of communication did you utilize during the deployment?
How do you expect face to face communication to be different?
How will Non Verbal
How will Tone affect your cues affect your commu-
___% words ___% tone ___% non-verbal
So how much of what your Marine has communicated have you actually received
during the deployment? How have we received the remainder of the message?
There is a natural difference between men and women and our need to communicate.
Women have a need to speak more than men. Keep in mind that your Marine has been
deployed with mostly men. It will take time for you to adjust to communicating with each
Feelings of anxiety are a normal part of the reunion process.
Communication will help bring you closer together; let your partner know how you feel.
Think about what you are saying: organize your thoughts; make a communication list;
don’t try to talk about different topics at the same time.
Don’t take it personally if your Marine doesn’t want to discuss his combat experiences
with you. Often they prefer to share these feelings with other Marines.
The Reunion and Readjustment Phase
This can be a great source of joy or confusion.
Physically you are together as a couple, but emotionally it may take a bit longer.
Remember these tips to help make the reunion and readjustment as comfortable and
successful as possible.
o Bring into a whole
o To complete
What are possible “Blockers” to your successful reintegration?
1. ____________________ 6. ____________________
2. ____________________ 7. ____________________
3. ____________________ 8. ____________________
4. ____________________ 9. ____________________
5. ____________________ 10. ____________________
Pick your fights: Constant battles over small issues are emotionally taxing and
tend to blunt the impact when you really need to make a point.
Communicate: Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader. If something is
important to you, don’t avoid saying it. It something is still on your mind 24 hours
later, you need to talk about it.
Resolve disagreements: Disagreements that are left unfinished can fester and
lead to deep resentment on both sides.
Hang in there: All couples go through rough times, emotionally and financially,
but for some, their crises make the relationship stronger. Keep in mind what
brought you together in the first place.
A deployment can be a BUILDING BLOCK or a STUMBLING BLOCK.
It is up to the partners to decide!
Roles and Responsibilities
You are ready to hand over many of your duties and responsibilities (check book man-
agement, child discipline, house work, vehicle maintenance, yard work, etc.) to your
spouse, but your spouse may not be ready to assume them.
It may also be the case that your spouse is ready to assume his/her old responsibilities,
but you are not ready to relinquish them.
What both of you need to understand is that you are going to have to talk about and ulti-
mately renegotiate your duties. Be patient, understanding, and tolerant as you both
adapt to the new family roles.
Use the diagram below in your discussion. Take the opportunity to talk about it before
your Marine gets home.
Is It OK to Maintain My Independence?
Husbands and wives worry that their spouse has changed during the de-
ployment and that there will be new strains on the relationship. Both part-
ners may dread, fear, or resent giving up the independence that being apart
had allowed them, as well as resent the freedom each imagines the other
has enjoyed during the separation. While everyone looks forward to reunit-
ing, they may also feel some anger at having been separated in the first
What activities have you enjoyed while your
spouse has been away?
You will need time together, but you may also need time to
yourselves. The returning service member will also need to
spend some time with each child, particularly in a fun, playful
activity in order to reconnect.
The Marine may want to maintain contact with his/her friends.
They often prefer to discuss their deployment experiences with
their friends rather than with their family. This scenario should
be approached in a cautious, patient, and non-judgmental man-
You may want to maintain some of your own activities (trips to
the gym, yoga, etc.) and you should make every effort to do so.
While maintaining your independence, ensure that you make
plans for alone time as a couple and engage in activities you
both enjoy. This will help bring you both closer together.
Celebrate Without Breaking the Bank
Avoid the Pitfalls:
Do not go into DEBT!
Do not try to buy the love of your spouse or children.
Do not buy expensive items or take expensive vacations
that will put you in debt.
The few moments of pleasure these new items/adventures bring will be
outweighed in the long run, as you struggle to pay for them later. Financial
and budgetary discipline is important in ensuring that future family stress is
“Budgets, bills, and debt can be points of painful marital conflict. Luckily, the same traits
that make a good marriage -- trust, flexibility -- make for great money harmony…
The challenges of marriage and money are complex because of the interaction of love,
emotion, and practical realities. What couples shouldn’t do, however, is assume money
matters will simply fall into place without effort.”
Liz Pulliam Weston
Entertainment on a Dime
You do not have to spend a lot of money to have quality time with your family.
There are activities in your local area that are free or of minimal cost. Partici-
pating in activities that everyone enjoys gives you the opportunity to talk with
your children or spouse, build lasting family relationships, and create a sense
of trust and security.
What activities do you like to do in your community?
With your Marine coming home, your income is going to decrease.
Keep an eye on your LES, make sure additional entitlements stop.
Your expenses are going to increase, which means you will need to
Are they realistic?
What are my expectations?
Ask yourself the following question and fill in the blank with the scenario:
How do I expect my __________ to change after the reunion?
Relationship with my spouse
Relationship with my children
Relationship between my spouse and children
Can you think of any other scenarios that would generate an expectation?
Every deployed person and their household members will experience a feeling of anticipation as
the end of the deployment approaches. This may take the form of eagerness for reunion, a
dread of a return to a problematic situation, or a mixture of both. Few get much sleep the night
before homecoming, and children may act out more than usual. These feelings may result in
you and your family members being on edge and exhausted when the family is finally reunited.
It may take a while for the military member to get adjusted to the local time zone, home cooking,
lack of continual aircraft noise, etc. And initially, difficulty sleeping through the night is typical.
At the end of a deployment, it is not unusual to experience a
homecoming letdown or post-deployment plummet. Reality is sel-
dom equal to how we have fantasized life after reunion would be.
Keep expectations reasonable and be flexible.
The military member wants to stay home and rest, while you may be eager to go
out socializing as a couple or get the accumulated “honey do” tasks done. Of
course, the opposite may be true as well!
The military member does not express appreciation for your efforts in running the
The gifts the deployed member brings home or the special welcome efforts the
family and friends make for the deployed member may not result in the expected
The children’s reactions at homecoming may not be what you or the service
member expected or hoped for.
If there were unresolved marital or family problems before the deployment, they will
not have gotten better during the deployment.
The deployed person may feel surprised or hurt that you did so well on your own
during the deployment. Or he may feel a little jealous at how closely the children
bonded with you.
You Made It to the Honeymoon!
What emotions do you feel when you think about intimacy?
Scared Nervous Excited Worried
Stressed Delighted Awkward Confident
All of the Above!
Intimacy and sex are not synonymous. Hopefully you and your partner have maintained
a solid sense of intimacy, or "emotional connection," during the deployment through fre-
quent communication. What you have not been able to maintain, as you and your part-
ner are no doubt acutely aware, is the sexual component of your relationship. Since sex
tends to be prominent in the thinking of both spouses during deployment, it tends to be-
come a key focus of reunion. Given sexuality is a highly personal aspect of your per-
sonal and marital lives, you need to deal with this area with patience.
Although sexual intimacy can resume instantly, and this may well be your mutual desire,
the level of overall emotional intimacy and comfort with one another that you experi-
enced before the deployment may take awhile to regain. Keep in mind that for over sev-
eral months you've only been able to communicate with each other, at best, a few min-
utes a day, and that you've had no face-to-face contact. Again, go slow.
Considering you've both experienced personal growth while separated, it makes sense
to take some time to get to know each other again, not unlike two friends who haven't
seen each other for awhile. Build upon the intimacy you shared. Recognize you and
your partner are "out of practice" in terms of sexual contact. As a result, it's not highly
unusual after lengthy separations for temporary awkwardness to arise. Also, you may
feel a bit uncomfortable together initially. If you have such experiences, do not make too
much of them, as doing so only heightens anxiety, which in turn can set you up for a
negative cycle of sexual problems. Simply relax, take your time, and let your sexual re-
lationship resume in a way that is gratifying for both of you.
Not Going as Planned?
If after 4-6 weeks, you are experiencing consistent feelings of sad-
ness, marital difficulties, problems with sleep or appetite, difficulty
concentrating, or excessive use of alcohol, SEEK HELP!
New Parent Support Program…………………………………………466-3651
Military One Source…………………………………………….1-800-342-9647
Child Development Center…………………………………………….466-3782
Cherry Tree House……………………………………………………..466-3861
Marine Corps Family Team Building………………………………….466-4637
www.aacap.org/publications- American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Military One Source…………………………………………….1-800-342-9647
Marine and Family Services……………………………………….…..466-4401
Marine Corps Family Team Building………………………………....466-4637