Marines Corps seeing largest rise in divorce rates of armed services

Two branches of the nation's military continue to push programs to help service members strengthen their marriages as divorce rates increase among their ranks.

Divorce rates among married members of the Marine Corps and the Army increased during the 2008 fiscal year, according to statistics released this month by the Pentagon. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

The Corps experienced the largest increase, with 3.7 percent of the more than 84,000 married Marines getting divorced in 2008. That's up from

3.3 percent in 2007, according to the Defense Department.

The divorce rate among the Army's 287,000 married troops rose to 3.5 percent, up from 3.3 percent last year.

Long and repeated combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq have had an undeniable effect on the home lives of the nation's troops, said Kelly Hruska, deputy director of government relations for the National Military Family Association, a Fairfax, Va.-based nonprofit group.

"The operational tempo is extremely high," she said. "Few people were surprised by this news. I think we would have been surprised if divorce rates were declining."

Marines and soldiers have been the largest part of the fighting force on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hruska said the Army and Marine Corps have made admirable attempts to help their service members readjust to family life after returning home from war.

"The services are trying to respond and trying to be proactive, but they've got to overcome that mindset and that stereotype that sees going to counseling and asking for help as a weakness," she said.

Marine Corps Community Services in Beaufort offers programs and workshops to teach couples conflict management, problem-solving and communication skills.

Still, Hruska said it's incumbent uponservice members to get the help they need because the programs offered by the military are not mandatory.

"The military facilitates all of these programs. I mean, there's no shortage of opportunities here, but this isn't a lawful order," she said. "You can't force anyone to participate in these programs."

Comparing divorce rates among the military with civilian divorce rates is difficult because there is no comparable system for tracking those statistics among civilians, the Pentagon said.