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Gunnery Sgt. Michael Reiser and his wife Carri embrace aboard Onslow Beach July 10. The couple, who have been married 11 years and have two daughters, recently completed Camp Lejeune's Fireproof Marriage Enrichment Program.

Photo by Marine Cpl. Jessica L. Martinez

Service members 'Fireproof' their marriages

20 Jul 2009 | Cpl. Jessica L. Martinez

When it comes to marriage people often want or hope for the fairy tale ending, that happily ever after, but marriage isn’t always easy, it takes some work.

To help service members strengthen their marriages as well as deal with the stresses military life adds to the relationship, Cmdr. Robert Carpenter, the Command Chaplain for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Installations – East and the Deployment Processing Command, began the Fireproof Marriage Enrichment Program aboard the base.

The marriage enrichment program is a spin off of the movie “Fireproof,” released in 2008. It is a film about improving marriages. The movie focuses on the relationship of firefighter Capt. Caleb Holt and his wife, Catherine. Their relationship is failing and just when they are ready to throw in the towel and call it a quits, Caleb’s father challenges him to try an experiment, the Love Dare, which is a 40-day challenge a husband or wife can do for their spouse.

Carpenter with help from the Midway Park Theater, began holding free viewings of the movie in February and then the Fireproof marriage enrichment seminar soon after.

“Since everything began, we’ve had about 1,400 people attend a total of eight showings of the film, and on average 75 people attended our weekly marriage seminar,” said Carpenter.

“What we are seeing is marriage is tough, and there are times in or during every marriage when husbands and wives can feel overwhelmed and unhappy,” said Carpenter. “One of the great strengths of the Fireproof marriages program has been that couples are seeing no matter what trials they may face in their marriage, there is hope for them to be happy once again.”

Military life isn’t always easy on couples and brings many challenges. Everyone is affected by workups, deployments and separation. But, other factors can also take a toll a relationship, issues such as trust, fidelity, forgiveness and communication are huge issues impinging on many military marriages.

Many couples who watched the movie “Fireproof” also attended the seminar to help strengthen their marriages and work on the weak areas of their marriages.

“I heard about ‘Fireproof’ from Chaplain Carpenter,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael Reiser, the company gunnery sergeant with C Company, Infantry Training Battalion, aboard Camp Geiger. “He recommended the movie and my wife and I ended up buying it. The movie and the classes really helped my relationship with my wife. It brought us so much closer. Our biggest issue we were dealing with was communication, and it showed me the real way to treat a wife and how to set my priorities as a husband and father.”

Reiser commented on how as a Marine he could relate to the firefighter in the movie. He said the work relationship the firefighter had with his fellow firefighters and how he handled it, helped him to improve his work relationship with his fellow Marines.

“It gave me different avenues to take to really open the doors of communications with my Marines,” said Reiser. “I mention the movie to them a lot and recommend it as well as the book all the time.”

At the end of April, came the conclusion of the first semester seminar of the Fireproof Marriage Enrichment Program. To honor  the end of the semester a renewal of vows ceremony was held for couples giving them a fresh and strengthened start to their marriages.

“I am very excited at how our Fireproof Marriage Enrichment Program has made such a substantial impact on so many couples,” said Carpenter. “The seminar gives couples hope that they can once again recapture the love and happiness they once knew.”

Unfortunately, marriage isn’t held as sacred as it has been in the past. People often enter into the relationship thinking everything will just work out perfectly and when it doesn’t, they are too quick to leave and call it quits. Marriage isn’t easy, and there are ups and downs every couple will face.

“Hopefully we’ll continue as long as possible, especially as couples continue facing difficulties in their marriages,” said Carpenter.

The Fireproof marriage enrichment program has been so successful that Carpenter is scheduled to take it to Marine Corps Air Stations New River, Cherry Point, Beaufort, S.C., and Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

Currently the Love Dare Bible Study is every Monday evening at 6:30 at the Midway Park Chapel. It lasts approximately an hour and free childcare is available through Marine Corps Community Services. To reserve childcare, call 451-2672.

For more information on upcoming movie viewings, marriage counseling or the Fireproof Marriage Enrichment Seminar, contact Carpenter at 451-3210.