Repeated deployments to combat areas in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a toll on many hundreds of thousands of military veterans and their families.
Some adjust to the added stress, unique to combat-area vets and something they view as hard to impart to civilian friends and family members. Others don’t.
Nowhere is that seen more readily than in anecdotal stories and hard evidence relating to military divorce.
Many factors surrounding tours of duty in Middle East combat areas are germane to the stresses faced by a military family. Multiple deployments loom especially large in producing strains and issues that can spill over to married life.
Multiple-deployment soldiers are obviously at a comparatively higher risk of experiencing a combat-related wound or injury. Traumatic head injuries have been termed the “signature wound” of returning combat vets. With the attendant post-traumatic stress disorder that often accompanies such an injury, a returning vet can bring hard-to-handle stresses back to the home front.
Military suicides are up. The strain exacted from multiple tours simply wears many marriages down. The “annual divorce rate” — the percent of all marriages that end in a given year — is now higher among military members than it is for their civilian counterparts. Issues of child custody, child support and other family law matters can seem particularly overwhelming when spouses are thousands of miles apart, with one of them being in an obvious danger zone.
Conversely, many married vets who have been deployed multiple times now say that they have hopes of post-traumatic growth and see an end to the tunnel of fighting and return trips to combat zones. Combat is winding down, and many marriages that had strength and resilience at their beginning have grown through the tests and strains of year-long missions.
One thing seems certain to military psychologists, counselors and other mental health specialists: Deployments are a strong barometer overall of military stress and divorce.
Source: The Sacramento Bee, “Military families also pay price for repeated tours of duty,” Adam Ashton, May 14, 2012