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The war’s toll on military marriages

February 2, 2007

We usually hear from the media about the death toll from the war in Iraq, which is of course important, because these are young men and women giving up their lives at the front line, but we don’t hear too often about the toll that the war is having on military marriages and families–especially those in which both spouses serve in the military. For these couples, some of the spouses may be deployed at the same time and while away they have to worry about who will take care of their children or who is going to pay their bills. And this is not as bad if they are not in the same unit when deployed, because at least they can be in contact with each other, but if they are deployed to different units, they may not see each other at all, which causes strains in their marriage. On the other hand, if they are not deployed at the same time, they may not see each other too much at home when one of them returns, because the other spouse gets redeployed. For the majority of marriages that only have one spouse serving in the military, being away from each other can hurt their marriages greatly and even permanently. Some spouses that stay at home have reported their suffering of chronic depression while away from their loved one.

These tensions within married couples sometimes result in divorce. Here is an excerpt from AP‘s take on the news:

NEW YORK — While U.S. casualties steadily mount in Iraq, another toll is rising rapidly on the home front: The Army’s divorce rate has soared in the past three years, most notably for officers, as longer and more frequent war zone deployments place extra strain on couples.

“We’ve seen nothing like this before,” said Col. Glen Bloomstrom, a chaplain who oversees family-support programs. “It indicates the amount of stress on couples, on families, as the Army conducts the global war on terrorism.”

Between 2001 and 2004, divorces among active-duty Army officers and enlisted personnel nearly doubled, from 5,658 to 10,477, even though total troop strength remained stable. In 2002, the divorce rate among married officers was 1.9 percent — 1,060 divorces out of 54,542 marriages; by 2004, the rate had tripled to 6 percent, with 3,325 divorces out of 55,550 marriages.

Here are some programs dedicated to support the family and spouses of officers in active duty. Although it is good to have these programs available, how much can these programs really help these marriages?
Military Spouse Career Center
Military Homefront


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