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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Military family dynamics discussed on NE

By Westin Campo/reporter

When Dr. Terry Arata-Maiers presented Military Deployment and Parental Injuries: Impact on Families Feb. 5 on NE Campus, one might have expected a somber lecture filled with depressing facts.

But from the moment Arata-Maiers introduced herself, her warm smile and cheerful demeanor signaled otherwise.

“A strong support structure within and for the families is the key to soldier retention and readiness in the military,” she said.

Arata-Maiers began with the history of the military family, highlighting the changing dynamics over the last century. Prior to World War II, the military was referred to as the bachelor Army.

“If the Army wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one,” she joked.

Arata-Maiers is a clinical pediatric psychologist who currently serves as child and family program director for the Warrior Resiliency Program at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. She earned her doctorate at Baylor University and completed two post-doctoral fellowships at Brooke Army Medical Center.

From WWII to the 1970s, the military family was predominantly traditional — an enlisted husband with a wife and kids at home. In the 1990s, the non-traditional family took over. Working couples, dual military couples, active-duty mothers and single parents made up the new picture of the military family becoming more reflective of society.

The military consists of approximately 3 million people in all branches, and with the new dynamics of the family, it creates many potential problems, she said. 

Much of the data used in her presentation was gathered during Operation Desert Storm. Data for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is still being collected. But when dealing with the different dynamics of the conflicts, multiple deployments and dangerous conditions are detrimental to warriors’ psychological well-being, Arata-Maiers said.

A Mental Heath Advisory Team study done on the two wars shows that one-quarter of service members come back with psychological injuries. And suicide rates continue to elevate in both military and civilian populations, she said.

The studies aren’t all doom and gloom. Arata-Maiers said military life has many advantages.

The military offers low-cost or free medical care, relatively stable family income, shared identity with a large “military family” and a supportive extended community.

A second speaker, Brooke Knox, said, “We provide counseling for anyone who has been on deployment, not just in combat.”

Knox is the project manager for Operation Healthy Reunions, a joint program between the Mental Health Association of Tarrant County and the Chisholm Trail chapter of the American Red Cross.

The program is designed to set veterans up with top quality counseling at a special low cost.

“We take really good care of our folks,” she said.

Arata-Maiers closed the seminar with a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

“Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.”

After the program, Arata-Maiers said she wanted people to keep one thing in mind.

“When a warrior is injured, it is something that must be dealt with forever, constantly adapting to it through every stage of their life,” she said.

One TCC student in the audience said he thought the program was relevant.

“I’ve got a friend who just came back [from Iraq] and another friend who is still over there,” he said.

“And my dad was a Vietnam vet who came back with post-traumatic stress disorder and got counseling through the VA [Veterans Affairs].”

Operation Healthy Reunions is funded by federal grants and covers Hood, Johnson, Parker and Wise counties in addition to Tarrant.

Anyone who needs help can contact the program at 817-335-5405.

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