Garrick Pang, left, listens to Noel Meador speak during a USO/Stronger Families presentation in 2012. USO photo by Dave Gatley
Stronger Families’ Garrick Pang makes a difference.
As the nonprofit’s senior director of training and support, he travels the country conducting USO/Stronger Families Oxygen for Your Relationships seminars for troops and their significant others.
Here is one of his favorite stories about a family that was on the edge of breaking apart:
“It was a couple of years ago. I was down at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base and we were doing this particular class for wounded, ill and injured service men and women and their families.
And in the back of the room came in a young couple and we had a few extra spaces available and so they had opened it up to the broader Marine population. And this couple, I think, had been ‘voluntold’ to come. And you can just see kind of the tension between them when they walked in the room.
As we began and started sharing about the program and different elements of it, I could see that … this tension was starting to come to the surface more. In the program, I share a little bit about my own personal story and my own journey of what my wife and I had been through early on in our marriage.
At the end of the first day, they came up to me and … the wife said to me, ‘Your wife at year seven, that was me two weeks ago.’
And I turned to the young Marine and I said, ‘So what did you do in response to what she said?’ Because what happened to me was at year seven, my wife basically said, ‘I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.’ And this Marine said, ‘Well, I didn’t know what to say. So, I said, “Well, whatever.”‘
And what I had shared with the class that I had made a decision at that point that I needed to fight for my marriage. And so I turned to him and I said, ‘You are a Marine. And I believe that I don’t know you very well but I’m sure that when you set your mind to something, you make that your objective and you achieve it, am I correct?’ And with some pride, he said, ‘Yes, sir. That’s correct.’
And now, you’ve just heard your wife say to you, after less than two years of marriage, that while she said she was done, she really wants you to fight for your marriage.
I said, ‘Do you think you’re up for that task? Because I think you can do it if you set that as your objective.’ And again, with some pride he kind of sat up in his chair and he says, ‘Yes, sir. I think I can do that.’
Out the corner of my eye, I could see a smile kind of coming over her face. Well, they came back for day two and I could tell that there was already something that was different. And they finished, completed the training and at the end of the day, I sat down with them and I said, ‘So, tell me what happened here.’ And he said, ‘You reminded me of what’s important. And you helped us to go back to the beginning and really recognize that what we felt like was gone was really still there.’
I followed up with them over the next four weeks.
I called them each week and again, less than two years married [with] a 5-month-old baby, they’d been deployed once, so they’ve been apart actually more than they been together. And he was ready to ship out in another month for another deployment.
So, I followed up with them and after that last call that I had with him, he said, ‘I want say thank you to you. Thank you to USO and to Stronger Families because I’m headed away for a deployment and I’m going to come back to my family. A month ago, I couldn’t have said that.’
And so to me, that’s really probably one of my favorite stories of a life – of a relationship – that’s been changed through the program.”