Troops marrying young for all the right reasons?

Young love and the ability to grow up faster seem to be the main driving forces behind so many troops marrying young.

According to a Department of Defense Demographics Report, over half (56.1 percent) on active duty are married and almost 43 percent of active-duty members are 25 or younger. The Army has the highest percentage of married members at almost 60 percent, according to the report.

So why do these service members get hitched at such a young age? Well, many believe that it’s for the perks– better housing, better benefits. Maybe also for the feeling of stability.

“Soldiers’ lives are constantly in danger and a lot of them have lost friends at such a young age, so a lot of them live for the present. If they find someone they love or they want to start a family with, they want to do it now,” said one military wife.

“There’s this need for belonging — this attachment issue…they want people who love them to remember them. They want children to carry on their legacy because there’s this uncertainty of coming back,” said Dr. E.C. Hurley.

Hurley, who served as an Army chaplain for over three decades, now works with soldiers and military families at the Soldier Center in Clarksville, Tennessee. Hurley says there are varying reasons for marrying young in the military ranging from “economic gain, security and love.”

“After you get married, there’s an adjustment of expectations or what it means to be married,” said Hurley. “The spouse has to go through these adjustments where the soldier’s commitment is 24/7.”

While many admit marrying young in the military is harder because it’s so difficult to build a household when your other half is constantly away, everyone agrees marriage at any age is a challenge.

There are going to be struggles no matter what.  And of course in the military money, youth and immaturity and frequent separation from family are the common ones. Some young, military couples say they couldn’t stay in a long-distance relationship and make it work without  marriage. The hardest part- most of them say – is not being able to go back home at any time.

Then there are the benefits of marrying young. Being in the military allows young men to start earning and providing for a spouse faster than earning a college degree. Young male troops admit that military guys get married young for the extra money and “to stay out of the barracks so they can get their own houses.”

In October 2014, NBC News ran an undercover investigative piece on military sham marriages.  The story featured a soldier who was shopping for a wife online. The contract marriage  was essentially a business proposition which would allow the “bride” recipient to get some money and healthcare out of the arrangement, while the service member would get more pay and benefits.

Still, for some it’s the real deal.

Jon Boring married his high school sweetheart Stephanie, two months after she graduated.  Jon was already in the Army at Fort Hood at the time. He told the Associated Press, “It really wasn’t a well thought out plan.”  Despite all the hardships they faced during his 22 years of service, Jon and Stephanie remain happily married, have three children, and have no regrets.

“I tend to believe everything happens for a reason,” he said. “There’s nothing that I wanted to do that I didn’t do. We experienced everything together.” While Jon was able to build a successful union at such a young age, he still advises young military couples to “give it some time, give it a year.”

Jon adds: “Let them see what it’s like to be around you when you’re deployed because everything changes. They have to have a complete understanding of what military life is.”

“It can be easy to blame the military for marital problems,” Jon said. “Yes, it makes it more difficult and can be taxing on a marriage, but it’s not to blame for divorce. If (divorce is) going to happen, it’s going to happen.”

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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