Troops Returning From Iraq Face New Battle at Home
Military Divorce Rate Rises 42 Percent During One of Country's Longest Wars
"When troops return home, civilians think 'OK, that's it. It's over.' But that's not true. The stress on our marriage of 13 deployments since 9/11 has been immeasurable." -Valerie Gaff, former Air Force Senior Airman, wife of Air Force Master Sergeant
Dec 31, 2011, 07:30 ET
LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Dec. 31, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- As some 40,000 troops returned home from Iraq this holiday, one of the longest wars in U.S. history continues to take a death toll rarely reported in war—the demise of military marriages.
The divorce rate among military couples has increased 42 percent since the Afghanistan-Iraq wars began in 2001.* Thousands of couples have endured multiple deployments resulting in years of separation. Research reveals that plans to pursue divorce or separation increase with each subsequent month a service member is deployed.**
When Air Force Master Sergeant Todd Gaff received orders to deploy to Afghanistan in 2001, he and his wife, Valerie, never imagined it was only the first of 13 tours of duty in the region. With each return home, "We had to renegotiate our roles, routines and relationship," Valerie said. "While he was away, I was totally in charge and fully responsible for our children and household. When he returned, it was hard to let go of some of those roles. It was also scary getting reacquainted. By necessity, we both changed each time we were apart."
The first 90 days post-deployment are the most critical for military marriages, according to FamilyLife, the global nonprofit leader in marriage events that, since 1976, has provided marriage resources and expertise in more than 75 countries. "That window is the proven time frame during which people develop habits and set the tone for the future of their marriage. It's critical for military couples to establish healthy habits quickly as they struggle to reconnect and restructure their families," said FamilyLife Founder and President Dennis Rainey.
The most common stresses post-deployment include: unrealistic expectations, rushing the transition, renegotiating roles, realizing both spouses have changed during deployment, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
FamilyLife is providing immediate assistance to military couples, including practical advice and free resources, at FinallyHomeToFamily.org. Additionally, the organization wants to provide scholarships for military couples to attend a FamilyLife marriage enrichment event. "We would like to help spark a nationwide movement to 'give back' to those who have given so much to our country," Rainey said. Anyone can give $10 to this scholarship fund by texting the word HOME to 28950. Gifts can also be made at FinallyHomeToFamily.org or by calling 1-800-358-6329.
MercyMe, the GRAMMY award-winning contemporary Christian band, is utilizing their 2012 concert tour to partner with FamilyLife. Lead singer Bart Millard said, "FamilyLife has stepped up and said this needs to happen for our troops. Trying to keep military families together is something I take very seriously. [This] gives us all an opportunity to offer these couples a fighting chance."
Air Force wife Valerie Gaff has not only experienced the challenges of an 18-year military marriage, but now works with FamilyLife to help others weather the storms she and her husband have faced. "Civilians often don't understand that, though the battle overseas may be over, our troops must now come home and fight for their marriages," Gaff said.
For 35 years, FamilyLife, the global nonprofit leader in marriage events, has helped build strong marriages worldwide. Currently at work in over 75 countries, FamilyLife has drawn more than 2.5 million people to its marriage getaways, including Weekend to Remember and The Art of Marriage. FamilyLife offers additional faith-based resources and expertise through national radio broadcasts and FamilyLife.com. Best-selling authors Dennis and Barbara Rainey co-founded the organization headquartered in Little Rock, Ark.
*MilitaryNews.com, Dec. 14, 2011
**Dept. of Human Development and Family Science, Oklahoma State Univ., July 2009
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