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People often forget that soldiers actually do have lives when they are not on the battlefield.  And as unfortunate as it sounds, many soldiers who return from active duty find themselves facing difficult situations at home, including the prospect of military divorce , which is more common than you might think.

Military divorce rates reached a record 12-year high in 2011, with one in every 27 married troops getting divorced this past year, according to a new report from the U.S. Defense Department.

The military divorce rate of 3.7 percent now stands slightly higher than national divorce rate of 3.5 percent and officials expect to see this number continue to rise as troops return home from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Interestingly, gender also played a significant role in rising military divorce rates, with women in the military demonstrating the most divorces overall. Close to one in 10 marriages of female service members, or roughly 10 percent, ended in divorce this past year.

Military Divorce Rates in America & Maryland

The overall divorce rate for military personnel during fiscal year 2008 was 3.4 percent, compared to 3.3 percent in 2007 and 2006. Further information includes:

  • Army. Enlisted divorce rate was 3.9 percent. Officer divorce rate was 2.3 percent. Overall divorce rate was 3.5 percent.
  • Air Force. Enlisted divorce rate was 4.1 percent. Officer divorce rate was 1.6 percent. Overall divorce rate was 3.5 percent.
  • Navy. Enlisted divorce rate was 3 percent. Officer divorce rate was 1.5 percent. Overall divorce rate was 3 percent.
  • Marine Corps. Enlisted divorce rate was 4.1 percent. Officer divorce rate was 1.6 percent. Overall divorce rate was 3.5 percent.

It should be noted that these figures reflect the United States in general. Maryland divorce rates have been consistently lower in previous years and these lower rates should be taken into consideration and in ratio to the above figures.

The Future Of The Military Family

Officials predict that military divorce rates will likely remain high as troops continue to return from the Middle East and reunite with families and spouses from whom they have been apart.

“As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan draw down, we’re going to put more families together who haven’t been used to being together,” a spokesman for the Army Office of the Chief of Chaplains said.

An Army program called “Strong Bonds,” initiated by commanders and led by chaplains, helps soldiers and their families build stronger relationships to withstand the prolonged separation and stress of reuniting after combat. Strong Bonds has four parts: a general couples program, programs tailored for couples preparing for or returning from deployments, and programs for families and single soldiers in Maryland who wish to strengthen their martial bond, and family unit.

While praising the benefits these programs offer families, officials said they recognize that strong marital and family relationships make better soldiers. It also has an important impact on a soldier’s decision to re-enlist. The Chief of Chaplains said, “The Army recruits soldiers, but it retains families.”