I have reviewed a few articles about military divorce rates, and they all contradict each other. Some say that the divorce rates have increased due to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, while others are sure that the rates have remained fairly the same throughout the war. What is consistent across all of my research is that female soldier divorce rates are several times higher than their male counterparts. “While the rates of divorce among males has increased gradually in the past six years, the rate among women has skyrocketed. By September of 2007, female soldiers were filing for divorce at a rate three times greater than the Army’s men” (www.reporternews.com). This gap is considerable and exists for many reasons. There is no definitive image of what a military husband is; we all know what the image of the military wife is. And, the support groups for spouses are dominated by civilian women, so the activities and functions are going to be geared toward this demographic. Husbands of female soldiers have minimal social outlets, and so it becomes difficult for some of them to truly understand their wives’ duties and responsibilities.

So, are the divorce rates increasing or what? Would it be a surprise if they were rising? There was a spike in the military divorce rates in 2004: “more than 27,000 service members filed for divorce in 2004 – a 44 percent increase over 2001” (www.reporternews.com). The Army responded to the spike with new programs and resources targeting troubled couples. For example, Strong Bonds is a chaplain-led program that includes weekend retreats for couples. I hope that these programs assist with the loneliness and isolation that many military couples and families have to bear. The isolation that today’s military families experience may be more prevalent than during past conflicts as more people seemed to be directly touched by wars such as WWII.

There is also the issue of young couples getting married before they really know each other. There, I said it. We all know this is true; some of us may even fall under this category. But I have seen a lot of young couples get married right before deployment only to return (injured or not) to find their wives with someone else. “It’s a big issue, especially with younger soldiers who’ve married somebody that haven’t known very long. They suddenly have extra money coming in and the lifestyle of the spouse at home lends itself to extra-marital affairs. We’ve had soldiers go home and find the house empty, the wife and kids gone” (www.guardian.co.uk). It is hard enough to deal with the long, 15-month deployments when you truly know someone. What’s to keep a young woman around if she really didn’t know the man she married before he left? I know, I know – vows, faith, devotion. But how can you expect to follow vows and be devoted if you do not truly know yourself? When I was 18, I didn’t know my butt from a hole in the ground.

With this said, some reports state that the divorce rate hasn’t changed much. In 2007, the divorce rate in the military was steady at 3.3 percent; this rate represented more than 25,000 failed marriages among the 755,000 married active duty troops in the armed forces between October 2006 and October 2007 (www.military.com). However, these numbers are calculated in an interesting manner. “The Pentagon does not count actual divorces, but rather takes the numbers of married troops in each service at the beginning of the budget year and the number of married troops at the end. The difference is the estimate of marriages that ended during the year” (www.military.com). So the same individuals, the same couples, are not counted during both periods, and the Pentagon has used this calculation method for years. It seems as though this research method is exclusionary. Perhaps a new calculation should be developed. I wonder how the retired and/or discharged military are being tracked in terms of marriages and divorces. The stress of combat, long separations, and the tough readjustment to family and civilian life should also be considered.

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