WASHINGTON -- Military service is always tough on soldiers' marriages and relationships. Overseas separation and stress from combat do nothing to reinforce family bonds or prevent "Dear John" letters. In spite of programs within the United States armed forces to help enlisted men save their marriages, the divorce rate in the military has continued to increase over the past year.
A new report, which the Pentagon released on Friday, reveals that the American military divorce rate rose from 3.4% to 3.6% during the twelve months ending September 30. In that time span, there were 27,312 divorces out of about 765,000 married members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. The study also claims that the marriage failure rate among reservists rose from 2.7% to 2.8% this year, and that the divorce rate for enlisted women was at 7.7%, compared to 3% for enlisted men.
The figures have been rising steadily over the past eight years, as the U.S. has been fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The military divorce rate at the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks -- which led to the wars -- was only 2.6%.
"Every marriage has controllable and uncontrollable factors," Joe Davis, a representative for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, told the Associated Press when asked about the report. "But when you interject eight years of war, preparing for war, being at war, coming home and having to think about going back to war again -- and when you have children -- it just has a tremendous impact on the family unit."
However, the armed forces have been making efforts to combat (no pun intended) the divorce epidemic. There have been numerous retreats, workshops, marriage counseling sessions, and other programs run by chaplains and family services to help soldiers save their relationships and families or ease the strain of divorce.
"We believe these programs are instrumental in mitigating the stresses deployment places on marriages," Air Force Major April Cunningham, a spokesperson for the Defense Department, told AP. Major Cunningham feels that the initiatives have helped to reduce the amount of increase in the divorce rate, although there was still an increase.