KILLEEN — Soldiers who recently returned from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan took part in a free date night July 19 at Texas Land and Cattle.

Funded by the post installation chaplain’s office, 12 soldiers of the 4th “Long Knife” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and their spouses had two menus to chose from, gold and silver, which included steak and salmon.

“(Date night) shows the unit personnel what’s available to them through unit ministry team and it demonstrates the type events that we can put on to build unit cohesion,” said Capt. Vincent Hardy, a Long Knife chaplain.

“With date night, it gives couples an opportunity to get together in a cozy environment, relax, put their hair down and just enjoy the presence of their spouses along with the company of their fellow soldiers and their spouses. It builds their communication level as well,” Hardy said.

The group of soldiers replaced their Army fatigues for more casual attire.

“It feels good to come out and not have to worry about how much we are going to pay and just enjoy the food, the company of each other and learn new things,” said Sgt. Jose Gill, a nodal network systems operator-maintainer with Bravo Company, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion.

Soldiers and their spouses filled out the five love languages questionnaire where they learned just what love language the other one was.

“We’re dual military,” said Tami Gill, spouse of Jose Gill. “We work long hours and we don’t always have the same schedule so it’s good to just sit down and talk before we have our baby.”

Better communication

Staff Sgt. Miguel Maldonado, an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, returned from Afghanistan June 20.

He said it has been a while since he has been on a date without kids and it felt good to be around adults.

“We have gone to marriage retreats before so this was something we were looking forward to because we feel like it makes our marriage a little bit stronger,” said Elizabeth Maldonado, who has been married to Miguel for 11 years.

“Things like (date night) helps out a lot,” she said. “It gives you time to just relax and you get to learn new things through the classes. If it wasn’t for that marriage retreat we went on before, we probably wouldn’t have stayed married.

Elizabeth Maldonado said her husband’s multiple deployments back-to-back had put a strain on their marriage.

“Going to the retreat, we saw how much other people have in common with us. We knew where to go and who to talk to and we learned stuff that we didn’t know that we use and apply now,” she said.

During the dinner the main thing everyone maintained was communication.

“If people in general learn how to communicate they can squash a lot of the problems that arise in their relationships,” Hardy said. “Once they learn how to communicate effectively which is majority active listening, acceptance and tolerance they can learn to deal with a lot of issues effectively in their relationship.”

Another date night for returning Long Knife soldiers is scheduled for September.

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