Coping with deployment: Army says it helps families

coping with deployment

FORT LEWIS — Fort Lewis and Madigan Army Medical Center develop and offer many programs to help military families deal with stress when a spouse is deployed to a combat zone, officials said Wednesday.

Their remarks came on the day the Journal of the American Medical Association published an Army-funded study that found incidents of child neglect and abuse among Army families significantly increased when a parent is deployed to a combat zone.


The study examined 1,771 families between September 2001 and 2004 in which one parent was deployed to a combat zone and parent-child mistreatment was reported. The study included an unknown number of such families from Fort Lewis.

“These findings are consistent regardless of parents’ age, rank or ethnic background, indicating that deployments are difficult for all kinds of families,” said Deborah Gibbs, the study’s lead author.

The study illustrates the strain of simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for some Army families left at home.

Programs for coping

Col. Cynthia Murphy, Fort Lewis’ garrison commander, said many programs are available to Fort Lewis families on and off post to help them cope with a deployment. She said new ones are introduced every few months.

For example, a fitness program at Jensen Gym provides free child care while a spouse can work out to relieve stress and get fit.

Two years ago, Fort Lewis opened a center where parents and their children as old as 5 can drop in at any time to participate in creative learning activities and network with other families.

Three contract personnel also are available to help families having trouble coping with deployment.

Some of the programs began in 2005, after the study period.

Dr. David Callies, chief of child and family services in Fort Lewis’ department of psychology, provides training to school counselors to assist children during parents’ deployments.

“These relationships are being established and nurtured, and we’re really proud of that,” he said.

The study, conducted by the nonprofit RTI International and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, found that the rate of child mistreatment was more than 40 percent higher during deployment than when a soldier-parent was home.

Among civilian mothers whose soldier-husbands are deployed, the rate of child neglect was nearly four times greater than the average, the study reported.

Studies have shown children who are mistreated are at an increased risk of depression and chronic health conditions that can extend into adulthood.

Annie Limberg of Puyallup said she understands how the stress of a deployment could create a situation of neglect or abuse. Her husband, Joshua, a lieutenant assigned to the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Lewis, is expected back from his first deployment to Iraq in November. She had prepared herself for him missing holidays and birthdays, but not for the stresses associated with being a single parent.

She said the programs offered by Fort Lewis have significantly reduced her stress.

“If you ask, there’s lots of places that will help you,” she said. “Lots of people, too.”

Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or chill@theolympian.com.

coping with deployment