How to Avoid the Untold Casualty of War

The call was similar to most. A young gal called stating that her marriage was at the failure mark. Despite her husband being home from Iraq for the past two years, he was still “checked out.” There was no emotional bond anymore and the only way they seemed to communicate was through loud, angry, sometimes screaming “conversations.” All he wanted to do was sleep and drink beer – his days at work, when he did work, were long and his pay didn’t cover the needs of their seven member family. They sought counseling but had a bad experience with the chaplain’s office and because he served in the National Guard, there were no “counseling” benefits. As a matter of fact, there were no benefits, period. As she put it, “he came home, they debriefed him and that was it – it was like, ‘thank you for serving, we’re done with you; go home.'”

The story seems to be a sad repeat, just a different couple. And while this is not representative of all returning Guard and Reserve troops, it does hold true for too many.

More than forty percent (40%) of our military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are made up of National Guard and Reserve troops. In the early years, most of these families were ill-prepared for deployment – especially the Guard. It was well-known that anyone who joined the Guard would serve their state, not the federal government. Not the case any more. And while these families began to adapt to the idea and the sudden lifestyle change of a single deployment, they now have to adapt to a life of multiple deployments.

Recently, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen shared that the Army’s stop loss policy won’t end any time soon. Also called the “backdoor draft,” this policy allows the Army to retain troops beyond the date they are due to leave the military. Currently, there are over 11,000 troops serving under this policy. Now what?

With each deployment, the strain on marriage becomes more unbearable. Marriage failure in our military is truly the “untold casualty of war.” Currently, there are 2.8 failed military marriages every hour – and this only accounts for our active duty troops. This doesn’t account for those that are in our Guard and Reserve who leave service after days or weeks of returning from combat and end their marriages weeks or months later.

So how does one avoid becoming a divorce casualty? Small groups. According to the Smalley organization, which is a faith-based organization, when a couple engages in a small group, the marriage satisfaction rate goes up 73 percent. This is vital when the couple re-engages after a deployment. Military Ministry, which is a division of Campus Crusade for Christ, makes available a “Bridges to Healing” series that deals specifically with solutions for combat trauma.

Preparing on the front end is even more important. If you know you are about to walk through a mine field, it only makes sense to follow in the foot steps of a couple or couples that have walked the field and made it. Find your baseline as a couple by taking a Couples Checkup Do this before you go and after. The “checkup” is designed to identify your strengths as a couple and build on them. You can also search for an expert in your area to help walk you through this.

To truly avoid being a casualty, you need to prepare both on the front end and on the back end. It will take work. Operation Military Family provides a blueprint for success based on other military families’ experiences. Follow in the footsteps of those who have succeeded and you improve your likelihood of succeeding as well.

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, Founder of Operation Military Family, a contributor to The Washington Times, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog, is a popular keynote speaker who also conducts workshops and seminars for military organizations – and organizations who truly want to “support our troops.” Proceeds are devoted to strengthening and preserving military relationship – more can be found at http://www.OperationMilitaryFamily.org

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