The U.S. military has been engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom for the last nine years. For most Americans, daily life continues normally. But for military families of deployed soldiers, the stress of this war is felt every day.
The news shows us the dangers and stresses of military combat but few civilians recognize the toll that it takes on soldiers' families. Statistics from the Department of Defense reveal that military divorce rates have increased every year since 2001, reaching a rate of 3.6 percent in 2009.
The Department of Defense did release one hopeful statistic. While the military divorce rate has not dropped this year, it has at least stopped rising. The military divorce rate has leveled off at 3.6 percent for the entire year of 2010.
Several years ago, the armed services noticed that the divorce rates were rising. Officials began to implement programs to help ease the stress on families and marriages. In addition to marriage support counseling and free mental health care for families, the government offers financial help such as free child care while a soldier is deployed.
Representatives of these programs say the measures are helping and officials are using this year's divorce statistics as proof of the programs' effectiveness. Many remain skeptical, however. They say that one year of data is not enough evidence to know what long term effects these programs will have on divorce rates.
It is safe to say that the effects of war and military deployment will continue to put stress on individuals and families, especially during the holidays. There will never be an easy answer when families are separated by the duties of war but these new statistics may be a reason to be hopeful.
Source: Military.com, "Troop Divorce Rates Level in 2010," Amy Bushatz, 18 November, 2010