Military puts additional stress on marriage

By Sonia Wilson – Soldiers aren’t the only casualties of war; marriages can also be killed.

More and more young military men and women are tying the knot quickly because of deployments. This is creating a rise in military divorces. Last year more than 13,000 military marriages ended. In 2006 a Kansas State University professor surveyed 337 soldiers who had recently returned from Iraq. Approximately 6 percent said divorce was probable, and 12 percent said it was definite, compared to the 3 percent of previous years.

The main culprit for the rise in marriage and divorce is the Iraq war. Broderick Miller of the Army National Guard said, “When soldiers get deployed or sent away the marriage does not last. It’s usually a baby that keeps them together.”

Units can be deployed anywhere from seven to 22 months. Spouses left back have resources to help them cope but often must rely on themselves to continue to support the family. Also, the family does not receive the second income since the soldier’s civilian job is not generating income while deployed.

“The Iraq war plays a huge impact on when we’re getting married,” said Liz Shriver. She is in the process of planning her marriage to Broderick Miller. “I wasn’t planning on getting married until after college, finding a job, setting up a stable home. But with the chance of him getting deployed increasing we decided to step up the date.”

The reality of deployment is especially hard on families with loved ones in the National Guard. These families are accustomed to having both people present on a day to day basis. But with the Guard being deployed more often, longer, and multiple times, the divorce rate is higher in these branches than in active duty.

These families have a minimal support system compared to active soldiers’ families who live on a military base. “I am really concerned with support, financially and emotionally, with him being in the National Guard. I don’t know many other friends that have a loved one in a similar situation to mine that I can go and talk to,” Shriver said.

“I believe active duty members seem to keep marriages together better because they are used to the distance, unlike the families of the guard or reserves,” said Miller, who emphasizes communication. “Write letters, phone calls, anything to keep the lines of communication open.”

Sergeant Rowe Stanton, who served in Iraq in the National Guard said, “About a quarter of the soldiers in my platoon ended their marriages while in Iraq.”

Marriages are already tough enough before war. Distance and time apart just makes keeping that much more difficult. A lot of couples make it work but there is no surprise when so many fail.

February 25, 2010