Supporting the Troops by Saving Their Marriages

Citing a Pentagon statistic that 20 percent of married troops in Iraq are planning to divorce or separate, the May 24 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight with Charles Gibson highlighted a program that is trying to help war veterans save their marriages.

Reporter Erin Hayes was on site at the Phoenix Project retreat in Texas, a privately-funded program put together by war veterans.  Two of the story's featured counselors are Vietnam veterans.  One said her marriage did not survive her war experience and she does not want that to happen to “this generation” of soldiers.

Hayes reported that the retreat is considered a last resort for some military couples who don't think their marriages can be saved. One Army specialist said that while he knew no one was trying to kill him he still felt the anxiety of being in war.  A Marine corporal said he and his wife couldn't stop arguing.  According to Hayes, couples like these are encouraged to spend a lot of quiet time together and to “listen past the worries of war. Hear each other. Set aside their battle-hardened toughness for gentleness.”

The Marine corporal featured in the piece said that the presence of veterans who have been through the experience of war and have saved their own marriages was encouraging, “These are people who are proven combat warriors, who have dealt with the situation and have learned the problem and have fixed it. And if they could do it, why can't we?”

Another military spouse said she had hardly any hope for saving her marriage but after having been through the retreat program she now had “a bucket full of hope.”

ABC serves the public well by shining a spotlight on the Phoenix Project and its parent organization, the Military, Veteran and Family Assistance Foundation.  Despite what seems like an incessant barrage of negative news about the Iraq war, ABC did military members and their families a real service by featuring this story.  Airing it just before Memorial Day is a timely and appropriate way of saluting the troops.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.