- Associated Press - Monday, March 10, 2014

SUNRIVER, Ore. (AP) - Sgt. 1st Class Sean Wilson and his wife, Stephanie, expect to spend their first wedding anniversary apart this summer. Sean Wilson is a member of the Bend-based Oregon Army National Guard 1-82 Cavalry Squadron that is currently scheduled to begin training at Fort Bliss, Texas, likely in June, and then deploy to Afghanistan in August.

But instead of focusing on the anniversary they will spend apart, the Wilsons, who live in Bend, have been planning the many ways their family can stay connected during Sean’s deployment.

Stephanie and the couple’s children decorated a box, and they have been filling it with letters for Sean to open throughout his deployment.

“So far, I’ve got him enough where he has two letters a week,” Stephanie Wilson said.

The Oregon Army National Guard also wants to make sure soldiers and their families are prepared for the deployment, and the Wilsons were among the roughly 200 soldiers and families who attended a pre-deployment Yellow Ribbon event in Sunriver over the weekend. There were sessions on communicating with family members and spouses, budgeting and “resilience,” a term for training that is supposed to help soldiers bounce back from experiences during deployment and ease their return home.

Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Dan Miner said the 1-82 will provide airfield security and defend the Shindand Air Base, in southwestern Afghanistan, where the Afghan Air Force is training. Miner, who lives in Vancouver, Wash., said the 450 soldiers in the 1-82 come from all over Oregon and as far away as Wyoming, so the Yellow Ribbon event was an opportunity to connect them to some of the military support services that active duty soldiers easily access on a base.

“Given the geographic dispersion of our families and our units, we don’t have the same support built into our structure,” Miner said.

Roughly half of the squadron is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan, and Miner said he expects to be there for nine months. This will be the third deployment for Miner, who previously deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Miner said the National Guard is trying to provide more preparation and support for military families in advance of deployments.

Col. Terry Larkin, a chaplain and director of the Oregon National Guard’s Service Member and Family Support program, said he was impressed by the number of military support service providers that showed up at the Yellow Ribbon event to inform soldiers about available services. “There’s been a gradual recognition there needs to be more support” for military reserves, Larkin said.

Staff Sgt. Eddie Black presented sessions on resilience. Black told the soldiers in the audience for his presentation that after he returned home from serving in Iraq, he often became angry when he had to stand in line at a coffee shop or when he was stuck in traffic. “Anger is our No. 1 issue right now for veterans coming back,” Black said. He ultimately sought free help from a counselor through the Returning Veterans Project, but he discussed other techniques that soldiers can use to promote mental health. Black said many soldiers mistrust psychologists who have not experienced war or military culture.

“We learn in theater not to feel emotions,” Black said, and although this is necessary and does not mean a soldier is a bad person, it can cause problems at home.

The Wilsons will work hard to stay connected, syncing their Google calendars so that Sean can stay up-to-date on the kids’ activities. They hope to use the video chat program Skype to include Sean during some of their family dinners, when each child recounts one bad thing and one good thing that happened in his or her day. “It keeps that tradition going,” Sean Wilson said.

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Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com

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