With years-long conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, military marriages are often under tremendous strain. For an increasing number, the strain proves to be too great. Last year, there were over 13,000 military divorces, up from 2007.
The divorce rate among active-duty soldiers in 2008 was 3.5 percent, up from 3.3 percent a year earlier. Among Marines, the rate was 3.7 percent, up from 3.3 percent.
An Army spokesperson attributed the rise in divorces to frequent deployments and relocations. Long deployments require the spouse left behind to do the work of managing and raising a family alone.
The Air Force divorce rate stayed at 3.5 percent; in the Navy, the divorce rate dropped slightly from 3.2 percent to 3 percent.
Some family support groups for veterans question the figures, saying the military might understate the problem by not taking into account the many divorces occurring soon after a member of the service leaves the military.
Women in the military experience higher rates of divorce than men: Army women had a divorce rate of 8.5 percent, compared with 2.9 percent for men in the Army. Female Marines divorced at a rate of 9.2 percent in 2008, while 3.3 percent of male Marines divorced last year.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates says the percentage of soldiers and Marines serving in Afghanistan and Iraq that are parents is higher than in recent conflicts. More than 40 percent of military members are parents; more than 230,000 children have parents serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
A recent Pentagon survey of more than 13,000 active-duty troops found that children between 6 and 13 years old are most affected by their parents’ deployment. Gates has lobbied for increased funding of family support programs in the military.