With today’s ever-changing political climate, uncertainty about future peace looms throughout the world. According to experts, the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th marks the largest conventional military attack on Europe’s soil since World War II. It’s almost impossible to avoid hearing about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Eastern Europe in addition to the continuing fear of further Russian invasions in countries bordering Ukraine. This, compounded with two years of unprecedented instability from the COVID-19 pandemic can send almost anyone into a deep funk. Now is the time to mentally prepare not only ourselves and our families, but our country’s most elite warriors and their families for what the future holds. The US Navy SEALs are at the tip of the spear in most global conflicts because of their uncanny will to succeed and adapt in adversity. They experience extreme physical, emotional, and mental stressors unlike any other human, so honing their resiliency skills is paramount to maintaining positive coping mechanisms on the battlefield and at home with the family.
What is resilience? The meaning applies to cognitive behaviors that help people respond positively to outside stressors. It is often assumed that people who respond with resilience do not actually feel the stress in adverse situations. However, resiliency is not a sign of indifference or insensitivity. In fact, an important feature of responding with resilience is knowing when to look for support from others during difficult times. Resilience helps people recover from trauma and strengthens feelings of gratitude for the simple pleasures in life. One of those simple pleasures hits close to home for most people, and most often it is FAMILY.
Until now, I viewed the SEAL family lifestyle from the lens of a parent, wondering when the next phone call would be from Charlie or Billy and what intriguing family chatter C3 and I could muster so we can make them laugh when they called home from the battlefield. This was a good thing, but I never realized the magnitude of the burden that SEAL wives and children endured until I heard the first-hand worries from SEAL wives while attending a Spouse’s Wellness Weekend at the C4 Ranch. I realized there is a vital need to help build resilience through gratitude for the simple things in life such as laughing together about a goofy joke, recalling fond family memories, and giving yourself time to rest and recover.
First off, I would be remiss if I did not mention that these SEAL wives are some of the most resilient humans I have ever met, and I admire them with all of my heart especially after hearing each of their stories. Topics such as raising “well-adjusted” kids with a part-time dad whose job moves them all around the world was an eye opener for me or trying to act “normal” in front of their kids after a death of one of their dad’s fellow SEALs. These women carry a huge ongoing burden of keeping the family in sync. I realized the resilience characteristic is a necessary factor to be able to endure this uncommon lifestyle pressure, and that it is a big indicator of successful marriages and family unity. Perhaps the most important thing I learned was the simple and very important act of expressing love for one another is necessary to thrive. The act of expressing love is a crucial element to building resilience by merely acknowledging our gratitude for each other. We should never assume our love for our families; we should ALWAYS let them know our love for them. As William Shakespeare wrote, “They do not love that do not show their love.” We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown to one another. I know first-hand that it is never a waste of time to tell someone you love them before it is too late.
Resiliency and gratitude are eloquently intertwined throughout all of our C4 Foundation F.R.O.G. Programs (Families, Resilience, Optimism, & Gratitude). I learned from attending the women’s weekend, that scientific evidence suggests that cultivating positive emotions such as gratitude, empathy and compassion enhances resilience which leads to reduced burnout in any arena whether it is work or family life. These features are expertly designed by neuroscientist Dr. Glenn Fox, our C4 Scientific Officer, and C4 Director of Programs and SEAL spouse of 24 years, Jennifer Cooper. Over time, these fundamental tools cultivate SEAL families for increased resiliency and are essential to foster the ability to overcome adversity that unfortunately comes with the SEAL family lifestyle.
We need everyone to support the C4 F.R.O.G. Programs now more than ever considering the uncertain course the world is taking at this time. I am beyond humbled and proud to be a part of an evolving, exceptional, and one of a kind active-duty Navy SEAL family initiative that helps strengthen these great families through the process of sharpening their innate tools of resiliency and gratitude.