When Army spouse Corie Weathers was named Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year last month, she became the first chaplain's spouse to hold the title. A licensed professional counselor, she and her husband Cpt. Matthew Weathers view themselves as a team -- Team Weathers.
At their current duty station at Fort Gordon, Ga., Corie has worked as a professional counselor. But with a new duty station where they will only be a short time on the horizon, Corie is planning to take a year off from her paying work to focus on self-care and working with the military spouse community in her roll as Military Spouse of the Year.
I got to talk to Corie about military life, love, marriage, war, challenges, counseling and all the joy and exhaustion that comes with it. We also talked a little about the marriage counseling curriculum she and her husband created originally for their own use, which you can access free at EnlivenMarriage.com.
Here are some excerpts from out discussion.
Amy: Military spouses have a ton of resources to help with mental health – Tricare, Military OneSource, help on base and more. Do you think people know about the resources that they have?
Corie: I think what I’m finding is that they don’t know the difference between what each of those things can do. So, depending on what is going on in their lives they aren’t sure who the best person to reach out to is.
I think the biggest thing spouses tell me that they didn’t know is that you don’t need a referral [to get mental health care]. They don’t know they can just look up a Tricare counselor, go to them, make an appointment and they can go to them that day.
A: Your husband was the chaplain for the Army unit that took heavy casualties at COP Keating in Afghanistan in 2010. Through that you were in a position to work closely with many war widows, wounded warrior wives and other hurting unit members. That’s a big burden to carry. How did you personally work through the emotions that go with that kind of loss?
C: Those are such sacred places to walk with people, and it becomes part of you, it becomes a part of your own story, and it’s been such an honor to walk with people.
It’s such a respectful place to be, and that place is such an honor that someone would trust you to be bring you into that place. For me I deal with it by respecting it -- that’s someone’s very intimate story and I see the positives in it, that someone trusted me enough to carry it for them.
I try to do a lot of self-care, I run to keep my brain healthy and I lift to keep the rest of me healthy. I think there are times when I reach out to some of those people and it becomes sharing the burden. Just to be able to connect and say “hi” and “I get you and you get me and we don’t even have to talk about it.”
Of course my faith is also a huge component.
A: What do you think is the secret to a happy military marriage?
C: I want to say “communication” but that sounds like such a gimmicky answer.
We approach every season with “how are we going to finish better than we started?” – that means individually and together. So we’re each always looking for our own individual goals and we are making goals as a couple. We wrote the Enliven curriculum based on seeing so many couples that need to find balance in their lives.
So I think the secret to all of this is a lot of communication, finding a balance in your marriage and really making sure that you lean on each other’s strengths and that each of you has a purpose. That’s why I love the fact that we call ourselves “Team Weathers.” We know that we need each other. Each season is saying: OK this is going to be a challenging season for different reasons than the one before. So we are going to face those challenges and say OK so we have a year, how are we going to make the most of this year? We do that instead of saying “this is horrible, I don’t have a license, the military is ruining my career.” We try to thrive through it and make the most of it.
A: What do you plan to do as Military Spouse of the Year?
C: Since I’m a mental health clinician I think it’d be great to do some work to boost the overall morale of spouses.
I think that a lot of our souses are doing really great and I want to highlight some of those spouses. But there are a lot of spouses that I’ve worked with that are struggling.
I think there’s this amazing camaraderie with spouses, but I think there’s also this hidden struggle that a lot of us go through. I really want to normalize that for a lot of our spouses. I really want to not harp on the negatives but just say it’s OK to go talk to someone if you need to. From a mental health perspective, I'd really like to normalize those feelings.