Chaplain briefs service members about combat stress

14 Sep 2011 | Pfc. Nikki Phongsisattanak

When service members deploy, there are many things they sacrifice. They sacrifice the luxury of taking refreshing showers, fresh home-cooked meals, and most of all - the time they could be spending with their loved ones at home.

During deployments, Marines and sailors leave a lot behind, and when they return, common perception, according to Lt. Commander John C. Rudd, command chaplain with Deployment Processing Command East, MCB Camp Lejeune, is that life should be grand. But, the weight of experiences strapped to their shoulders can be a lot to carry.

Rudd holds briefs that address combat stress. The briefs are for a small number of individuals, which include active duty and reserve Marines and sailors, as well as contractors, who are augmented from their original units to temporarily support another unit. The brief is required for all of the augmented personnel.

“We want to make sure that the (service members and contractors) are ready to (mobilize, demobilize or remobilize),” said Timothy H. Wones, officer in charge with Navy Mobilization Processing site, MCB Camp Lejeune. “They have to be able to make the transition.”

The brief also covered the topic of transitioning back into the life at home, and the service members talked about challenges they had.

“When I returned from my deployment, I wanted to go back to where I left off,” said Rudd. “But things change as time passes. The general principle is realizing and admitting that time has passed and I’m not where I used to be, so I’m going to have to do the hard work of figuring out where I am right now and finding my new norm. It’s a much more realistic approach to admitting the change.”
In 2004, Staff Sgt. Harold Matos, deployed to Afghanistan as an infantry unit leader with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, leaving his wife and children at home. He returned in 2005 for a few months before deploying to Iraq until 2006.

“When you get back… that new norm feels different,” said Matos. “You kind of feel withdrawn and everything feels surreal. It doesn’t hit you at first. You kind of just observe the things around you, and it takes a couple of weeks to adjust. You go through different phases when you come back from a combat deployment, but it’s different with everyone because everyone experiences things differently and deals with those experiences differently.”

During the brief, Rudd told the service members a story about a Marine sergeant who lost his motivation due to the stress from a previous deployment, but then found his path after a fellow Marine cared to listen and help him work through his struggle.

Matos said he thinks these briefs are great because it gives the Marine or sailor the opportunity to speak to the chaplain. It lets service members know that there’s always someone willing to help.
“Sometimes it’s easier to talk to somebody outside the circle,” said Rudd. “You don’t really want the people in the mix to know. That’s normal. It’s just a human condition that involves our pride and privacy, and we want them handled very carefully. Just to have their concerns dignified outside of their (thoughts) is valuable because it offers people comfort, peace of mind and sometimes a sense of direction. I’ve used my mentors and leaders in that capacity as well. It’s great to have that support.”

For more information on the combat stress brief or any other concerns call 451-1872.