Female GIs struggle with high divorce rate

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“You’ve got to look at the realities of what military life is like on the family, and it really is kind of set up around a traditional married model of a husband and a wife that runs the house, if you will,” said Kimberly Olson, a retired Air Force colonel who is executive director of Grace After Fire, a support organization for female veterans.

She said many female warriors don’t get the support and space they need after war service to make the transition back to their roles as wives and mothers.

“The expectation that you can just turn that emotion back on like a light switch just because you walk off the airplane and they got signs and balloons and your baby runs to you, it is not very realistic,” she said.

When divorce does occur, it only adds to the stress faced by an already stressed-out population.

Staff Sgt. Robin D. Duncan-Chisolm, 47, of Prince George’s County, Md., was deployed to Iraq last year with the D.C. National Guard while she was getting a divorce. She said she worried the entire time that she would lose custody of her teenage son or lose the house that she and her husband had shared.

“I was able to smile … but inside I had a lot of turmoil I needed to have resolved, things I needed to bring closure to,” she said.

She credits her friendships and support in the National Guard with helping her get through the divorce. She and her son were able to take advantage of support programs offered through the National Guard’s “Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program” to help with her transition home.

Each of the military services today offers a variety of programs focused on strengthening or enriching marriage. The Army, for example, offers a program called “Strong Bonds,” which provides relationship help to married couples as well as single soldiers and “resiliency” classes for spouses of both sexes.

Despite these efforts, Christina Roof, national acting legislative director of AMVETS, said there are not enough programs specifically targeting divorce among female service members. She said some husbands just don’t feel comfortable being surrounded by wives as part of military family support programs, but they need to be educated about issues their wives may face when they return from war.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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