The Best Handshake You Will Ever Give

An Interview with Dr. Jerry Powell, D.Min, Director, Fayetteville Family Life Center

Handshake by M.V. Jantzen, on FlickrJerry Powell, Director of the Fayetteville Family Life Center, believes that teaching people how to care for military families is an education process – not just with the military personnel and their families, but also with those who interact and engage with them in their communities. And we need to realize that this means all of us.

It is true that Dr. Powell’s two CareNet Centers in Fayetteville may come in more frequent contact with service members than the rest of us. In their centers, 15 clinicians record 1,000 clinical hours a month, and 45% of those are with military families. They are located five miles from Ft. Bragg, one of the largest military installations in the country.

But all of us interact with service members in our own counties. The North Carolina National Guard has deployed twice in “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” The 30th Infantry Brigade has a member in every county in North Carolina. They are already in our communities. The military service members are statewide – they are where we work and where we go to church.

And most of them have not received the validation and appreciation of their grateful neighbors that they need.

What is the most significant thing you can do? Show them that you appreciate and value their service and sacrifice. Not just to the military personnel themselves, but also to the family members who stay home. They sacrifice far more than others ever acknowledge. Continue to show an appreciation to them. Acknowledge, appreciate, and validate their service.

One tangible example: when you approach a couple you know as military, shake hands with the military serviceman and tell them you really appreciate their service. Turn to their spouse and say that you especially appreciate their sacrifice. Acknowledge, appreciate, and validate their service.

Congregations can validate their service and sacrifice to our country and community. This is significant as part of their healing process. Acknowledge, appreciate, and validate their service.

When relating to returning soldiers from deployment, know that getting back takes time for adjustment. And for those who were in direct combat, they always come back different. Combat changes us. Some will need a significant amount of time involved in their healing process. Some cannot sit through a whole church service – they find it difficult to be in crowded places, sitting still for a long time. Acknowledge, appreciate, and validate their service.

“I love what I do. I retired after 20 years of military duty and have worked with CareNet for four years now,” Dr. Powell shared. “I love being out of the military, and I miss it every day. But I love doing this. I see it makes a difference.”

As a CareNet non-profit site, the Fayetteville Family Life Center operates on a narrow margin of financial support. They need financial gifts to keep their ministry vibrant. If you would like to contribute, contact 910-484-0176.

Dr. Powell and his staff are available to come to your church to help support your ministries and speak to your congregation. To make arrangements, contact their Fayetteville office at 910-484-0176 or

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