Hope on the Home Front
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Major General (Ret) Bob Dees of Campus Crusade's Military Ministry about the unique challenges facing military families.
Major General (Ret) Bob Dees talks about the unique challenges facing military families.
Hope on the Home Front
Gen. Dees: You're talking about a very young population. You're talking the majority of the military, age 17 to 24, the wives; the husband's a bit older. These are youngsters marrying youngsters in many occasions that are ill-prepared to be married much less to be married in the military. And so you have that combined with the intersection of global war on terror; you have a first deployment; and then a second deployment; some on their third deployments for as much as a year at a time, and you can imagine how this ravages the military marriage.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, May 28th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We prepare soldiers for battle; what can we do to prepare couples for the spiritual battles they may face in their marriage. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, have I ever referred to you as "General?"
Bob: [chuckles] No, no, you've never referred to me as "General," "Corporal" …
Dennis: We're in our 15th year broadcasting, I've never saluted you, have I?
Bob: You have not. No -- and I've felt a little disrespected by that.
Dennis: I've never thought of saluting you.
Bob: It never even came to mind, did it?
Dennis: It never even came to mind. But we have another Bob in the studio and because he's a general and you're not …
Dennis: Instead of addressing him as "Bob" …
Bob: You're going to call him "General?"
Dennis: I'm going to call him "General." I'm going to keep on calling you Bob.
Bob: That is more than appropriate, because this general earned his wings.
Dennis: He got his star, no doubt about it. General Bob Dees joins us on FamilyLife Today. General, welcome to our broadcast.
Gen. Dees: Dennis and Bob, it's great to be here.
Dennis: Would you salute Bob? Tell the truth.
Gen. Dees: Oh, I'd salute him, sure.
Bob: I was a Boy Scout. I can do the Boy Scout salute with you, how's that?
Gen. Dees: We could salute you right before you did your pushups.
Dennis: Well, General Dees did graduate from the U.S. Military Academy in 1972; had a distinguished career with the military until -- what year, Bob?
Gen. Dees: Oh, until 2003.
Dennis: In 2003 you retired and served admirably -- I hate to use that word.
Bob: That would be a Navy man who served admirably.
Dennis: Well, first of all, I just want to say as I welcome you to the broadcast, General Dees, that we just appreciate you and your service on behalf of our families -- appreciate you and Kathleen. We know you raised your family in the military; that there was a cost to that. You had two children and now have got some grandchildren, and we want to say thank you in this time of war to you and the other military personnel around the world for defending our nation.
Gen. Dees: Well, Dennis, thank you, but it's a privilege. We have a great nation, it's a great nation to serve, and I would just say every day of service alongside the sons and daughters of America who are so committed to what we do, it was a privilege, so thank you.
Dennis: You know, General Dees is the executive director of the Military Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, and he invited me to go to the Pentagon with him here about a year ago, and we stormed the outer circle and inner circles of the Pentagon, and I think hit a lick or two for Jesus Christ in the process, as we proclaimed Him there.
But we've been in partnership with the military ministry now for more than a decade, and we have been attempting to strengthen marriages and families not only here in America among our military personnel but also around the world.
And, General, you're just back from an overseas trip where we have recently had a number of Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences actually held by your staff on military bases.
Gen. Dees: That's right -- just in October alone, we had seven Weekends to Remember and military marriage seminars around the world in places like Yokoto, Japan. These people that are at the ends of the earth, so to speak, really need Jesus Christ. They need to know God's blueprint, God's tools, and then Altus Air Force Base Oklahoma; 10 Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, that was incredibly powerful to have a large group and, out of that, there were 23 people that made professions in Jesus Christ as well as committing their marriages.
What is so powerful is that 20 of those 23 were Army Rangers. So here you have the toughest of the tough bending their knees before the Living God, because they recognized from when cometh their help. Their help cometh from the Lord and from whence cometh help for military families, it cometh from the Lord, and it's powerful when you see these Rangers do that.
Bob: And military marriages today, especially during wartime, are facing unique challenges that you don't face in peacetime, right?
Gen. Dees: Oh, exactly. Well, the military marriage is an interesting intersection. First of all, they have all the challenges of a normal marriage, and also maybe more because you're talking about a very young population. You're talking the majority of the military, age 17 to 24, the wives; the husband is a bit older. These are youngsters marrying youngsters in many occasions that are ill-prepared to be married much less to be married in the military.
And so you have that combined with the intersection of global war on terror. You have a first deployment; and then a second deployment; some on their third deployments for as much as a year at a time, and you can imagine how this ravages a military marriage and how these people really need to know God's plan, God's blueprint, God's tools in order to just survive to work through these deployments, and then reenter in a proper way and have a healthy relationship between themselves and on behalf of their children.
We're in pretty serious proportions right now in terms of divorce, in terms of suicide related to some of these issues.
Dennis: And speaking of divorce, during war more military families among enlisted personnel and in officers end in divorce, is that correct?
Gen. Dees: Well, that's exactly right. For example, last year Army officer divorce rates went up 78 percent. If you look at the aggregate statistics within the Department of Defense, four years ago 7,000 DOD across the board, the Department of Defense. The next year, 7,500; the next year 10,000 -- that was this last year, and now this year to be reported out on, we're not for sure -- is it 15, is it 20? We see this accelerated rate of divorces because of the frequency of deployments and we're dipping really deep into the well of courage, and these families are just having a hard time hanging together.
Bob: I want to ask you about this picture that I have in my mind that's probably a Hollywood picture of soldiers who are on deployment, and they've got a weekend pass, and they're off the base, and the picture is that immorality is the norm. I mean, I'm thinking about the unusual pressure on a husband to be away from his wife six months, seven months. His buddies are going out on the weekends, and they're coming back and talking about prostitution, they're talking about girls they met in town. Is that for real or is that a Hollywood creation?
Gen. Dees: I would say both, Bob. It's for real in that people that are on that type of deployment are sorely tempted, and we have them submitting to these temptations. There's a thing that says "TDY," which means you go off to a faraway land for military mission.
In Korea they used to say, "Temporarily Divorced for a Year," sensing that they had the license, when they were on a deployment, to go downtown, to get with a yobo [sp], to -- and I find that alcohol is often at the root of it, because once they loosen up with alcohol, then they become subject to many other temptations, and they live out those fantasies.
On the other hand, the deployments we're talking about are really not deployments where you have this discretionary time. These are deployments where you're in and out of combat on a 24-hour basis. Maybe you go on patrol, and you're 12 hours, 18 hours, in intense combat. Then you come back, you change your boots, and then you go out again the next night.
And it's an incredible intensity of action -- the wife fearing every day for the life of her husband. My young family, my son's family, these young grandchildren lived with us while he was in Iraq, and we saw the turmoil, the turbulence, the uncertainty. The little boy didn't speak for three weeks after the father left. He was only two years old, just starting to speak, but he didn't eat, either, and he knew something had changed in his world.
Well, just magnify that hundreds, thousands of times in military families across our country.
Dennis: And most wives are not prepared to be able to guide their families to handle this let alone handle it themselves. They are left alone on military bases to cope with life, pay the bills, and manage what comes at them on their own.
Gen. Dees: Exactly, and the services work this hard -- there is something in the various armed forces called "Family Readiness Groups." These readiness groups help. They particularly help, though, those wives that are on active duty.
My son's wife, again, was in charge of a Family Readiness Group. He was a company commander, and so she was in charge, upon his departure, of 60-plus wives with children and families.
Dennis: How old was she?
Gen. Dees: She was 22.
Dennis: Now, I want you to think about that for a second -- a 22-year-old, newly married, new mom, in charge of 60 young wives and mothers.
Gen. Dees: Right. She had three of her own children, that's right. And it was just only in God's economy that He allowed her to minister to these people, but that's what we're asking people that are prepared or ill-prepared across our whole force to take care of these active duty wives.
Those are the blessed ones. The other ones -- National Guard and Reserves, that's the part of the iceberg under that water. They're out in the woodwork of America.
Dennis: Can't spot them. You don't know where they are. They're not on a military base.
Gen. Dees: Exactly, they're in the churches of America, some of them, and some of them are just in the communities, forgotten.
Dennis: Yes, and one thing we need to say here at this point, if you know of a military wife, National Guard, who goes to your church, what you're hearing is a part of her reality right now, and she needs the Christian community around her as few other wives, mothers, and women do.
Bob: I am also guessing that the issue of pornography is a serious threat to marriages and families in a military environment, and I'm wondering, is there an official position on the part of the military? Do they discourage troops from viewing pornography now with laptop computers? A guy can go online anywhere. Is that discouraged? Are these kinds of things -- are they pointing men away from this?
Gen. Dees: Well, I think you'd be pleased in that there's pretty stringent measures against pornography within the military. The military, as an authoritarian environment, can simply say, as they do, we will not have pornography on government computers. And they have monitoring programs; they have ways to pick up on who has been involved.
I know when I was a commander, I would get a report that told me who was dabbling in the wrong places, and we would deal with it very stringently. So the good news, in the military, you have this organizational structure that allows you to stand up for good as well as the evil side.
Dennis: General, there's also this thing of these troops coming back from deployment and a syndrome that impacts not only their lives but their spouses and their children. Why don't you talk about that challenge that these young couples are facing?
Gen. Dees: Right. Well, a normal deployment and re-deployment is tough, as we have discussed. It's doubly tough because of the phenomenon called "post-traumatic stress." Most warriors coming back have some form of post-traumatic syndrome, and some have a valid post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. One out of five is the prediction.
The services are working it, but they work it from a secular, psychological basis. There is very little faith component, and I'm convinced that in addition to the psychiatric techniques the thing that's far more powerful is the power of love, the power of faith, the power of community, and if we, ahead of time, can help these troops know the power of God, and they can see things through a biblical lens, then they go through the traumatic experience, they come out the other end, they are able to process it properly, they are able to fall back into a community of faith, and it's a totally different dynamic. They may be affected, but they will get over it. Others that don't fall into this community will live with for decades and perhaps their whole life.
Dennis: And this does have an impact on a marriage and a family, and that's part of the reason why, General Dees, you and FamilyLife partner together to create Homebuilders Bible studies to be able to take to the military marriages and families. We have one called "Defending the Military Marriage," and another one called "Defending the Military Family," and, obviously, community isn't the total solution.
But, you know, being able to talk with some friends honestly and openly and express what you're feeling and what you're going through coming back, is an important part of the healing process, isn't it?
Gen. Dees: It certainly is. We are thrilled to be able to be relevant to military families in partnership with FamilyLife. These impact events are important. Weekends to Remember, Military Marriage seminars -- these are to get them off of dead center but then the real essence is a sustaining small-group methodology, Homebuilders, that allows them to gather with other military couples, peers, and they can really share what's in their heart of hearts, and that's very important.
It follows the maxim, "An ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure." If we can get that on track before they go, it's really powerful. Even if not, when they return, it's powerful, and that's what the case was at Fort Carson, Colorado. These were returning warriors that turned their life to Christ because they saw how traumatic the war was.
Dennis: You're speaking of the Rangers who came back from Iraq and many of home received Christ at the Military Marriage conference that was held there at Fort Carson, right?
Gen. Dees: That's correct.
Bob: The partnership that the military ministry has with FamilyLife is one component of what the military ministry is trying to do with our servicemen today. Can you give us a broad picture of the variety of ministries that the military ministry is involved with, with the men and women of the armed services?
Gen. Dees: Sure. Well, we maintain that what's really important is faith in the foxhole and hope to the home front. Now, this plays out in a number of ways. We are at the boot camps of our armed forces. It's pretty exciting to see, for instance, at Lackland Air Force Base, we'll have 1,500 airmen march to classes called "Spiritual Journey for a Lifetime."
They have the option of going to Mormon or Hindu or other places, but they come to our classes and, on a weekly basis, we see between 100 and 150 make first-time decisions in Christ, and then our staff has the privilege, responsibility, of helping them grow and get connected to their next assignment.
Dennis: This is taking place right now?
Gen. Dees: Right now, right now, every Sunday, and not only there but at Great Lakes Naval Training Center at Parris Island, South Carolina. I'll be there this coming weekend, on this coming Sunday, to do this type of thing. The last time I was at Parris Island 1,000 Marines in this worship service, over 100 came forward, bended knee, teary eyes, penitently giving their lives to Jesus Christ.
So this is an incredible ministry, and I've told Dennis there is an expression in the Army, "Threat clears a man's head." Well, the sons and daughters of America have very clear heads, and they seek an anchor for the soul, and this anchor for the soul is clearly Jesus Christ, and they know it, they're not worried about being politically correct. They cry out to the living God so that they know where their hope comes from, and it comes from the Lord.
Dennis: You also actually send each soldier a Rapid Deployment Kit, which I think is really cool.
Gen. Dees: We do. That's exciting. Since 9/11, 1.3 million Rapid Deployment Kits -- it's a little New Testament, it's a Daily Bread, and it's a "How to Know God Personally," in a waterproof bag, it goes in their cargo pocket. And these have all been packed by volunteers in our headquarters, and then they go out to the troops, and that volunteer's hands are the last hands to touch it before a soldier opens it up, many times in his hour of darkest need.
The stories we get from the front about the power of God's Word -- it's alive, it's sharp, it's active, it provides encouragement and wisdom. We have a soldier in our locale, John Diggs, fell on a grenade and then another grenade came and wounded him again. He's a real hero in my book. He had 13 operations, 65 days Walter Reed.
He came to us, and he talked about having one of these Rapid Deployment Kits in his cargo pocket and how, when he was wounded, that was the very thread of life that allowed him to hold on -- the encouragement of the Scriptures. And then as he was going through this lengthy healing process -- the same -- the power of the Word of God.
So we see this with many stories from the front. It's an incredible privilege to be able to give these soldiers the Word of God, and like the Dallas USO, passes out on our behalf these Bibles to troops as they're going out the door at Dallas Airport.
Dennis: You're really modeling the kind of leadership and caring concern that took place in a little town in Nebraska, aren't you?
Gen. Dees: Well, we're trying to. We sure are.
Dennis: During World War II, there was this little town that gave cookies and doughnuts and coffee …
Bob: In Nebraska?
Gen. Dees: Right, North Platte, Nebraska. Now, North Platte was a Union Pacific railway station in 1941, just sort of seeing trains go back and forth and then, all of a sudden, Pearl Harbor happened. And when Pearl Harbor happened, they started running trains back and forth mobilizing soldiers, and one day the word went out, "Okay, we've got some Nebraska boys going through on a train."
So all the ladies said, "Let's bake cookies and doughnuts." They did. They went out there with their baskets and, as it turned out, they weren't Nebraska boys, they were Kansas boys. And so they just stood there, and they said, "Well, what do we do?" And one drugstore clerk, Raye Wilson, decided to have the moral courage -- she said, "Well, I'm not taking my cookies home."
So she went, and she handed out to these Kansas boys her cookies from Nebraska, and it started an incredible chain of events -- 55,000 women volunteering over four and a half years, sometimes meeting 32 trains a day at North Platte, Nebraska, and Union Pacific railway station, they donated this to this community, and they started calling it "The North Platte Canteen."
And these troops would get off the train, and they'd jump off for 10 minutes, and they'd go in there, and they'd have coffee and doughnuts, and they would shine their shoes, and it was an incredible experience. And sometimes they would do this right before they were headed off to places like Normandy and Iwo Jima and the toughest spots of the world and many times they were heard when they were under mortar or artillery fire, "If only we could be back in North Platte," because love chases away fear.
So what we seek to be is the North Platte, Nebraska, and I think this story is so powerful for many reasons but particularly Raye Wilson. That one person, she wasn't the CEO of a company, she wasn't a person of influence, she was a drugstore clerk, but she had the moral conviction to make a difference to help somebody. She says, "I'm not taking my cookies home."
And so now in this challenging environment we find ourselves in as a nation, the global war on terror that's going to be long, it's not just about Iraq, how do we all respond? Do we take our cookies home, America, or do we give our cookies to these wounded warriors coming home? Do we help those families? Do we wrap our arms around these people in the love of Jesus Christ so that they can become whole and be integrated back in our community.
I know for FamilyLife, for military ministry, we're not taking our cookies home. We're working aggressively every day to make a difference in the lives of these military families so that they can really be all they can be in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dennis: And that's really why we partnered.
Gen. Dees: Exactly.
Dennis: We decided we want to help these marriages and families at their point of greatest need, and there is nothing like war to create a teachable spirit in a human heart.
Bob: You brought your cookies, didn't you?
Dennis: We sure did, and we've only begun to fight, but you know what? We're going to impact tens of thousands of military marriages and families before this is over. They're at our Weekend to Remember conferences around the entire calendar. They're coming and, in some cases, there have been those step forward to scholarship, military couples, to be able to attend at no cost, and I'm personally excited about our partnership with General Dees and the military ministry and, Bob, just being able to address the needs of military families.
Bob: I just saw an e-mail that came in about a conference that we worked together on with the military ministry that took place on a military base back in April, I think, and it was a combination marriage and parenting conference; had almost 200 service people there.
I think it was 85 families that were represented including some single servicewomen who are moms, and the response from that conference was powerful -- 29 people who trusted Christ at that event, people who recommitted their life to Christ.
And a lot of those couples who are going to get involved in a Homebuilders study, we've created some special Homebuilders studies for military couples including one that's called "Defending the Military Marriage," and another "Defending the Military Family."
There's a brand-new book that Bea Fishback has written for us called "Loving Your Military Man," that is for military wives. All of these resources as available from us here at FamilyLife, and we are working to aggressively get as many military families as possible utilizing these kinds of resources and involved in groups like this to help strengthen their marriages and their families in a very high-risk, vulnerable situation.
If you know somebody who is in the military, and you'd like to get them a copy of one of these Homebuilders study guides, or if you know a military wife, and you'd like to get her a copy of the new book, "Loving Your Military Man," go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go" right in the middle of the screen, and that will take you to an area of the site where you can get more information about what's available from us here at FamilyLife.
And please keep in mind, especially on a day like today, to pray for our soldiers and for their families. Let's not forget the husbands and wives, the families, of those who are serving overseas who are just as much a part of the sacrifice of service as the men and women who are deployed.
Again, if you'd like more information on the resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go," and that will take you right to an area of the site where there is more information, and you'll also find a link to the military ministry website, so you can go there for more information as well.
Well, tomorrow General Dees is going to be back with us, and we hope you can be back as well. We're going to talk about some of the things that General Dees has learned about leadership, and while he learned a lot of those things in the military, there's a lot he also learned outside of the military, and it may surprise you to find out where it was he learned some of these leadership principles. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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