Jeannine Germain’s husband served 25 years in the U.S. Army, often gone 300 days a year. Homecomings were not always the blissful scene we see pictured and life after the Army is also tough, Germain says.
“The families get forgotten about a lot,” says Germain, executive officer and treasurer of Clear Path for Veterans New England. She founded a family group to help strengthen and increase resilience, as well as lend support to each other. When her husband, Scott, was on active duty, she relied on fellow military spouses but now, those people aren’t right in her backyard any longer. “I started the family group in case other military spouses felt the same way I did.”
The families did. Her Family Force group has close to 50 members and continues to grow.
Germain and Beverly Prestwood-Taylor, executive director of The Brookfield Institute and its Care for the Troops program, and Jennifer Baubitz, formerly director of Shoulder to Shoulder, are teaming up for a Trauma and the Military Family workshop in Leominster, devoted to helping military families. The workshop aims to build a community among the participants, educate family members about the effects of trauma and the best responses and provide tools and resources for living with a traumatized service member. The workshop will be held Wednesday, Oct. 3, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Congregational Church, 583 Main Street, Leominster, MA. A light meal will be provided.
Besides having been a “proud military spouse” for decades, Germain has a degrees in counseling, psychology and education. Yet she is still sometimes stymied by living with a person who is living with the effects of trauma.
“You really have to understand it,” Germain says, “and it’s very hard to understand. It changes and there are so many areas of my husband’s life it affects.” She does a lot of research and has learned not to take things too personally, to understand her husband’s side of things. “But you still have to have boundaries, things you’re not willing to put up with.”
Prestwood-Taylor, through her work with trauma healing and building resiliency, agrees that families are often overlooked. “If there’s someone in the family who has experienced trauma, it affects the whole family,” she said. She will help workshop participants understand the effects of trauma on the brain, including the parts of the brain that are affected, what happens to the brain when there’s trauma and what is the result. There will also be a discussion about post-traumatic growth.
Clear Path for Veterans and Care for the Troops complement each other well, said both women, and it was natural to team up for the Trauma and the Military Family workshop.
“It would be good if we could give people more of an understanding, what a soldier can go through and what their family members can go through,” Germain said. She plans to talk about her own experiences and what she saw her family go through — and how she coped. “The soldiers struggle and you hear a lot about that, but the families struggle, too.”
The workshop is free, but registration is required.