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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Lt. Col. Ernie Savage’s eyes well up when he talks about the struggles some military couples face in their marriage.

He knows they’re out there. Some are coping with long separations from deployments or the stress of juggling family life and 12-to-14-hour duty days. Those challenges can be exacerbated by Misawa’s isolated, rustic and foreign landscape, Savage has found.

“If you’re a family member from Ohio and you’re suddenly uprooted to northern Japan, this is radical cultural shock and it’s of the Far East variety” made more difficult by the language gap, he said.

As the 35th Fighter Wing chaplain, Savage counsels couples in faith-based and secular marriages. But Savage, the five chaplains on his staff, and other support agencies on base are overwhelmed.

“We’re desperate to figure out a way to help the community,” he said.

Bringing this weekend’s Military Marriage Seminar to Misawa is one solution he and other base leaders are attempting. Taught by retired and active-duty military members from Okinawa and Arkansas, the two-day class is faith-based, part of the joint Campus Crusade for Christ ministries — the Military Ministry and FamilyLife.

Savage said the workshop has been taught in communities near and on military bases in the United States for many years. The Misawa class is the first time it’s been offered overseas; a similar one is planned for Okinawa later in the month.

Beyond the religious and military undertones, Savage said, any couple can benefit from the seminar’s lessons on marriage enhancement. All ranks, branches of services, retirees, civilian employees and spouses of deployed active-duty members are welcome.

The seminar isn’t just for unions on the skids, he said, “but it certainly wouldn’t hurt a couple who needed some help to get it.” Other class topics include resolving conflict, clarifying roles, sexual intimacy and increasing commitment.

The seminar runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in the Tohoku Enlisted Club ballroom.

Spouses still may sign up by calling the Family Support Center at DSN 226-4735; if there’s space available, they also may show up at the door Friday to see if space is available. As of Wednesday, 75 couples had signed on; there’s room for 150 couples, Savage said. The base is providing child care for 90 kids at the Child Development Center Friday night and Saturday and organizers are trying to find additional providers. The cost to attend is $10.

After the seminar Saturday, couples will be given a homework assignment: a date. (Child care is provided until 8 p.m. Saturday for those already signed up.)

“Some of them … haven’t had dates in many, many years,” Savage said. “We ask them to go back in time, to when they were dating, remember how much fun they had together, and try to recreate that. Many couples have forgotten what it’s like to have fun together.”

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