Nancy and Kelly McKeague of Alexandria, Va., say their Catholic faith provided an “anchor” to their marriage during Kelly’s service in the U.S. Air Force. / Courtesy of Nancy and Kelly McKeague
Boston, Mass., Nov 11, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).
To coincide with Veterans Day, a marriage ministry has launched a free “virtual date night” video series specifically for military couples, providing mentoring and other resources to help spouses strengthen their bonds to one another, to their families and communities, and to God.
The new, three-part series is one of several developed by Witness to Love, a faith-centered marriage ministry based in St. Martinville, La. Founded by a Catholic couple, Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret, in effort to supplement existing church-based marriage preparation programs, Witness to Love provides a “virtues-based, Catechumenate model of marriage renewal and preparation that integrates modern principles of psychology and the virtues to help couples facilitate an authentic dialogue about their relationship,” according to its website.
Daniela Mazzone, vice president of content and leadership development and Spanish support lead at Witness for Love, told CNA that the idea for a date night video series came in response to the fact that so many couples were home together during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve always had in our hearts to do something for military couples, because we know that they also need a lot of support because there are challenges that they face in their own marriages which are much harder and could be different from what the average couple deals with,” especially when spouses are separated during a deployment, Mazzone said.
Couples can register online for free and will have access to Witness to Love’s app where they can see all the videos. It is not necessary to download the app on their mobile devices to see the videos, as they can also be viewed on the organization’s website, Mazzone said.
The military spouses series launches on Nov. 11, but couples will still have access to the videos on the website after that date. You can watch a promo video about the new military date night series below.
The new series features Kelly and Nancy McKeague, an Alexandria, Va. couple with four grown children who share the challenges and successes they experienced in their marriage while Kelly served in the U.S. Air Force.
“While a military spouse may not wear the uniform,” Kelly McKeague told CNA, “they’re going through the same tribulations and trials.”
“I just traveled with him and went along for the ride,” Nancy McKeague quipped. But her husband disagreed.
“I think, to be fair,” Kelly McKeague said, “the military spouse has a very unique role just because of separation, deployments, and what have you, and so in essence, a military spouse really does serve.”
Military life is a “higher calling,” Kelly McKeague said. “It’s a calling of service, but also a sacrifice that takes many, many forms.”
Nancy McKeague told CNA that “it would seem that whenever Kelly would leave and be gone, something pretty dramatic and traumatic would happen in our life.”
Speaking about a time when their son had an asthma attack in the middle of the night, Nancy McKeague said that she grabbed all her children and went to the emergency room, spending hours there.
She noted that emergencies like her son’s asthma attack happened “quite frequently,” and she just had to remind herself to stay strong for herself and children.
Nancy McKeague said she constantly reminded her children, while her husband was deployed, to “just remember that Daddy is doing this not only for our family, but for our country, and this is a really great thing that he’s doing.”
“I know it’s not easy for him to be gone,” she would say to her children, “but just remember we’re just going to pray for Daddy that he comes safely back home.”
The video series is not exclusively for Catholic couples. However, the McKeagues, who have been married for more than 37 years, say in their video testimony that their Catholic faith was their “anchor” during Kelly’s military service.
“Having that strong faith connection, in our view, as we present in the video, was so crucial to us, not only surviving as a military family, but thriving as a military family,” Kelly McKeague told CNA.
Staying close to the sacraments was “crucial” in keeping them strong as a couple and as a family, Nancy McKeague added.
Other presenters in the videos include a Navy couple, Shannon and Kim Walker, who speak about interpersonal relationship; an Air Force couple, Jon and Lea-Ann Virnig, who discuss family and community life; and Father Michael Murphy, the pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Coronado, Colo. Reflection questions and other resources resources are included with each video.
While each of the couples in the series has a unique perspective on the challenges that military spouses face, they also share a common experience, the McKeagues say.
“The thing that I’ve always loved so much about our military life was traveling to new places, getting to meet many new people, building friendships that have lasted since the beginning of our time in the military, and people that we’ve kept in touch with through the years that have made us stronger and have made us grow in our faith more,” Nancy McKeague told CNA.
“Those relationships and those friendships have been such a huge blessing to both of us,” she said.
“We were all in the crucible together, we were all experiencing the same challenges, and then some of those friends that Nancy talked about are from the chapel community, the Catholic chapel and they were lifelong friendships because they were honed in somewhat less than ideal circumstances, either the place or the situation or the operational tempo,” Kelly McKeague said.
“All of that starts to build a closeness with people who share the same uniform, but also share the same faith. So it’s an added bonus,” he said.