I speak with so many veterans throughout the year, at social gatherings, veteran events, working through Embracing our veterans and Project Support Our Troops.
There is one emotion that stands out to me. Loneliness. Whether the person I am speaking to is married, divorced, in a relationship, there is a loneliness that seems to seep through the conversations. A sense that something is a bit unsettled.
Many of the veterans I speak with I have known for many years either in a friendship that has grown or just as a social acquaintance. In getting to know them, you find that a large percentage of them have been married and divorced, some have been married and divorced several times.
This is true for men and women.
I have to count myself in there as being divorced. It isn’t something you plan on and I certainly don’t recommend it if there is something there worth saving, it is just something I have noticed over the years.
I’ve been wondering what the statistics are of veterans and divorce, so I did some research. As of 2012, the military divorce rate was at 3.5% as compared to civilian divorce rate of 3.5% The military statistic is for active duty military from the year 2000 to 2011. Source: www.oceansidedivorcelawfirm.com/military-divorce/infographic/
The recent wars are having a negative impact on military marriages, as the rate of divorce is the highest it has been since 1999. The dissolution rate across the various branches was 3.7%, which was up from 3.6% in 2010 and holding fast to the steady increase from 3.1% in 2005.* Interestingly enough the rate among female service members is 7.9% while only 3% for service men.
Source: http://www.ktparkslaw.com and www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/12/divorce-rate-for-women-in-military
After having done some research, and in thinking back on the veterans I know. All of them, literally all of them have been divorced at least one time.
Is it something about veterans, or as mentioned above, having served in combat can provide a negative impact on a marriage? Is it simply that many veterans carry so many memories with them, it just makes them different?
You become a different person when you serve in the military.
No matter what job you had, your time serving your country changes you. You see things differently and at times it is hard to explain to someone who has not worn the uniform. It may seem to your friends and family that you speak another language, or just think differently than most. Family members are the hardest to try to explain it to. They want to know what you did, where, when, all the details. Your asked; How did this happen? What did you do? How did you feel afterward? Are you ok? Details, details, they want details.
Of course they do! They are trying their hardest to understand. They want to understand. But one thing needs to be made clear. There are things that you just cannot put into words at times. It is a part of you that is ingrained in your core. It is more than a feeling or an emotion. It is now a part of you, just as your heart is a part of you. It may be anxiety, anger, fear, patriotism, love or compassion. It can or could be all of those things wrapped so tightly around and within you, that to let it go could be overwhelming.
Some folks may overcompensate or show too much of one emotion or another. It’s overwhelming for the person receiving all of that emotion. Some withdraw, because the emotions are just too strong and they need to keep them bound together. At times a person may just need solitude. Quiet; a “safe” place to just breathe. For others, you lock it away behind a smile and keep on keeping on.
Veteran to veteran? We can notice it in one another. I’ve noticed in many over the years, and I am sure that some may have noticed it within me. For a civilian to try to look or figure it out is difficult. They may see something entirely different. They may not realize all that is bottled up and they wouldn’t because it has not been shared with them.
What a cycle it can be for many. Is this meant to be a negative commentary on veterans or civilians? Absolutely not. It is just my own perspective in trying to put words to something that there may be no words for.
Honestly? Who am I to try to explain?
I am a woman who has lived with those emotions and “things”. I am a person who has tried, and failed, to explain that part of myself to my family and loved ones. I am a woman who is complex, stubborn, strong, proud and passionate about what I believe in and in protecting those I care for. I am a woman who cares deeply about people and does my best to help where I can. I am a woman who can’t be pushed. I am a woman who has a difficult time answering the question, “What was it like being in the military?”
I am also a veteran who can sit with another veteran over a cup of coffee and we “just get it”, without having to explain ourselves.
I am a female veteran. A complex and at times confusing person to some. Would I change any of my experiences that have built me into who I am today? No. I am who I am, just as all of my brother and sister veterans are who they are. Scars, hurts, triumphs and joy; and when you are with other veterans, being a part of that community, you don’t have to explain. We just “get it” and we can breathe.