Remember the
“Marlboro Man’s” story
?

He’s not alone. With every redeployment
and extension of tour comes more stress on military families. It matters; that
is, if you want to keep the all volunteer force healthy and enlistments high.

For Brue, it was a bittersweet moment. This was what he had looked forward
to for months, ever since he found out in January that his squadron would
spend four extra months in Afghanistan.

For his wife, the extension was the end of the marriage.

“She basically quit,” said Brue, 24, of Syracuse, N.Y. “That’s
the best way I can say it.”

The true toll of war on any soldier is difficult to gauge. While in Afghanistan,
eight men have died in Brue’s squadron, victims of an ambush and accidents.
But 16 months in Afghanistan cannot be judged only by battles won and soldiers
lost.

Back home, life went on without him and the other members of his squadron.
Wives gave birth to babies. One soldier’s wife suffered brain damage in a
car wreck that killed two other people. Another soldier found out that his
father had less than two weeks to live after being diagnosed with an inoperable
brain tumor. At least three soldiers postponed weddings because of the extension.
And at least three men face divorce when they return home in late May or early
June. Such long deployments will soon be standard for the Army, taxed by commitments
in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government announced in April that troops will
be deployed for 15 months at a time, instead of a year, raising the possibility
of extensions that could mean 18 months or even two years away from home.

Extended
tours break bonds of GIs’ families

Divorce
is up. Loneliness — insert your description — is too.

The wars are taking a toll on military families, too: According to Army figures,
divorce among officers jumped by 78% in 2004, though the numbers fell back
in fiscal 2005. Divorces among enlisted soldiers increased by 28% in 2004
and have stayed at about the same level this year.

The military is taking the war in Iraq on the chin, with Afghanistan an added
burden. It’s time to quit giving our soldiers lives over to the Iraqis who are in the middle of a civil war.
It’s time for them to fight their own battles.

Memorial Day is a terrific time to honor our soldiers and veterans; flying the flag and showing our appreciate in words. But it
would help if we backed up the weekend of respect with actions that actually matter to soldiers serving and the families who need them at home. They know the burden of service, but it’s un-American to sacrifice them time and time again. It’s time for things to change.