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Military Families Need More Help & Support
Military Families Need More Help & Support
 

DefenseWatch

This article is provided courtesy of DefenseWatch, the official magazine for Soldiers For The Truth (SFTT), a grass-roots educational organization started by a small group of concerned veterans and citizens to inform the public, the Congress, and the media on the decline in readiness of our armed forces. Inspired by the outspoken idealism of the late Colonel David Hackworth, SFTT aims to give our service people, veterans, and retirees a clear voice with the media, Congress, the public and their services.



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July 13, 2005


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By Chad Miles



Among the dangerous and merciless enemies that our troops are facing around the world, perhaps the most ruthless exists right here at home: divorce.

The Army has seen an alarming increase in the rate of divorce among its troops in recent years, with the officer corps being hit the hardest. While the overall divorce rate has doubled since the year 2000, marriages ending in divorce for officers have tripled in the same time period. The Army seems to have been hit particularly hard compared to the other services, which have seen only very small or no increase in divorce rates in the past few years.

It seems that the men and women of the Army are being stretched to the breaking point and these statistics most likely are revealing only a small part of the overall picture. Often, problems within families are frequent due to issues surrounding deployments, and divorce sometimes is only an extreme case.

Prior to 2001, tours of duty in lasting six months to a year in various countries such as Korea , Egypt or Bosnia have been stressful on Army families. These deployments are called "hardship tours" because the soldiers do not have the option of taking their spouse or children with them, unlike other overseas tours to countries such as Germany or Italy.

But now the Global War on Terrorism has added additional combat tours into the mix and the stress has been more than some families can bear. Lasting up to a year or longer, tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan are not only arduous for the troops deployed, but often are extremely difficult for the family that has been left behind. Additionally, soldiers are often deployed on multiple tours and it is not uncommon to see a unit serving a third or fourth tour of duty in Iraq.

The over-reliance on the National Guard and Reserve has almost certainly been an enormous contributing factor to the rise of divorce. Being called to active duty multiple times for extended periods can be disruptive and economically devastating for most families.

I am not sure most Americans realize the extreme sacrifices that these soldiers are making for the freedom that we enjoy every day. When the Pentagon released the names of the troops who were killed during the MH-47 Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan on June 28, I was struck to read that two of the soldiers were on their fourth tours of combat duty, including one soldier from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment who had been deployed to Afghanistan no less that six times since the aftermath of 9/11. yet another had served tours in Germany and Korea before deploying for his combat tour. Kind of makes you wonder why the divorce rate isn't even higher. Recent figures show:

Total marriages

Total divorces

Percentage

2001

Enlisted

199,703

4,513

2.3

Officers

55,650

1,145

2.1

2002

Enlisted

193,638

5,989

3.1

Officers

54,542

1,060

1.9

2003

Enlisted

198,230

5,587

2.8

Officers

56,078

1,866

3.3

2004

Enlisted

202,134

7,152

3.5

Officers

55,550

3,325

6.0

The Global War on Terrorism has already taken a heavy toll on the Army and it may be time for the Pentagon to rethink the deployment structure that we have been operating under for the past few years. Being sent on multiple deployments away from his or her family has a wearing effect on a soldier and can decrease overall morale within a unit. It can also make troops unfocused and less effective on the battlefield.

Moreover, today's sophisticated communication technologies such as email have helped spouses hear from their loved ones overseas with more frequency, but it still is often not enough to ease the burden of separation during a lengthy overseas tour.

To its credit, the service has organized several support programs such as the Army Family Action Plan and the Army Community & Family Support Center that attempt to help families deal with the pressures and stress that go along with daily military life as well as the hardship of overseas deployments. There are also support groups at the unit level that act as a resource for loved ones left coping with the fact that their spouse is gone. Still, sometimes these programs and groups are not enough and the result is a spouse ending a marriage out of frustration, loneliness or anger.

We have asked a lot from our soldiers in the past and we are asking even more of them today. Even with the difficult challenges of multiple extended combat tours, they continue to do their duty effectively and with pride.

Let's hope that the Pentagon takes notice of this trend and commits to a comprehensive course of action that helps our troops keep their families together while they carry out the critically important tasks we have sent them to do.

Contributing Editor Chad Miles is a U.S. Army veteran who served with the 82nd Airborne Division and the 5th Special Forces Group during the 1990s. He founded the website WhoServed.com , which tracks the military service of previous and current U.S. government leaders, and is currently pursuing a degree in political science from the University of Michigan - Dearborn. He can be reached at chad@whoserved.com . Send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com .


 



 



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