News 12 at 6 o’clock / Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Soldiers often spend years in war zones defending our country, but coming back home to a stable environment can be extremely difficult. That's where Oktoberfest can help.
"When you've been in a deployment where there's combat, it's a combat environment, it is a different world,” said Fort Gordon Commanding General, Maj. Gen. LaWarren Patterson.
Deployed soldiers endure a world of stress, adrenaline and danger that can make coming home to a settled environment incredibly hard.
“When you're in a war zone, you're on an adrenaline rush for months on end, and it's dangerous if you don't come back and transition yourself back to a normal state,” said Director of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation James Green.
What better way to integrate back into the community than to bring the community to the soldiers?
Add beer, schnitzel and rides, and you've got a recipe for re-integration.
“Having these type of events here getting them out of their units, out of their barracks, gets them back integrated,” Green said.
“The atmosphere of, for lack of a better word, frivolity, the carnival atmosphere, I mean, it brings out joy, it brings out fun, it brings out love,” Patterson explains. “It allows you to put yourself for a moment, a day or two, in an environment that you can enjoy without the stresses of work and the demands of the military lifestyle.”
While deploying and leaving your family is hard, Staff Sgt. Christy Eichelberger admits coming back home to your loved ones can present challenges, too.
"The bonding with your family, especially if you have small children at the house. You know, trying to get to know them again, trying to get used to knowing you. So when you come out and have a good time with your family, you can build that bond again with them,” Eichelberger said.
“It's just a perfect atmosphere to be amongst and around those who you share a commonality with, a professional love with, and a family love with and a community love with,” Patterson said.
But perhaps the greatest value of Oktoberfest is when a civilian goes out of his way to say thank you.
“That's the best medicine they could ever receive," Green said.
“We get civilians come to say thank you all the time, and it just brings such an emotional joy to us when they come and see the hard work that we're doing just to fight for this country," Eichelberger said.
Green says the increased number of soldier accidents and deaths after they come back home is why the Army is placing such a focus on transitioning soldiers back into daily life.