Conference to focus on women connected to service members

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 27, 2013 

Jeff Struecker says when soldiers return from combat, they are often changed.

"There are no physical wounds, but they are different," he said.

And wives, girlfriends and mothers struggle with that change.

The Hope Beyond the Battle conference on Nov. 1-2 at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, where Struecker is co-pastor, focuses on these women.

It is a time to honor, encourage and support all women connected to a service member.

Workshops will be held with topics such as Helping Sons and Daughters Cope With Loss and Change and 7 Best Practices: Caring For Your Wounded Warrior.

Struecker will deliver the keynote address, Connecting to the Heart of Your Warrior.

Speakers and workshop leaders are coming from the national organization, Hope for the Home Front, including its founder Marshele Carter Waddell. The organization's slogan is "When War Comes Home, Don't Retreat."

Struecker's conversation with Waddell led to this conference.

Hope for the Home Front usually does a national conference and Struecker asked Waddell if she ever considered doing a regional conference.

Struecker said he knows women coming from as far as Kentucky to attend.

Struecker is a retired Army major. He served 22 years in the Army, the last 10 as a chaplain, and said most of this time was spent counseling couples.

Before he served as a chaplain, the former Ranger had combat experience including participation in the invasion of Panama, Operation Desert Storm and in Somalia.

He said the many deployments that soldiers make can take a toll.

"Women tell me that this is not the man they married," Struecker said. "'How do I make a life with this man?'"

He said wives often want the soldier to tell them in detail what they saw in combat so they can better understand, but the soldier does not want to do that.

"I did not want to talk to anyone but my fellow soldiers about what I saw in Somalia, but was forced to because I was mentioned so much in the 'Blackhawk Down' book," he said. "There are soldiers who fought in World War II who still won't talk about what they saw and did."

Struecker said what many families face is a "new normal."

"There is no going back," he said. Adjustments have to be made.

He hopes to have a variety of women at the conference, that the ones from the Vietnam era will connect with those who are facing the situation now.

Struecker hopes the conference is successful and will encourage other churches around the country, especially those near major posts, to do the same.

"Here at Calvary, we have women members who are in this situation," Struecker said. "We want to be seen as a church that cares and that wants to strengthen families."

Struecker said child care will be available.

The cost for the conference is $99, which includes meals. For more information, call 706-322-1491 or email info@hopebeyondthebattle.org.

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