by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009, at 4:03 pm
I used to be neutral on the issue of women in combat, but after hearing about the amount of deployment adultery I am starting to care. Two close friends are being deployed for a second tour in Iraq soon---one divorced and one recently married. At a farewell dinner my divorced Army friend, Ben (not his real name), told me that after his first Iraq tour every guy in his squad divorced his wife months after returning home. Every one of them. With the exception of Ben, all these guys were having sex with female soldiers during their deployment. In Ben's case, his wife was cheating on him back here in the States.
Ben hated the fact that his wife left him but was glad to be single on this second tour because of the strain deployment puts on young marriages. Ben told me the general pattern is that male and female soldiers would spend lots of time together working, and within a few weeks pairs would form. "You knew what was going on," Ben said. We then discussed whether or not it is wise to put both men and women in such a difficult position. We arrived at no conclusion.
These "hook-ups" are not new, of course. It happens every summer with teenage camp counselors all over America. (You remember. In June they are at camp to "serve kids" and by early August they have met "the one.") The difference, of course, is that married adult men and women are committing painful sin against themselves and others. Maybe we should not be surprised. I seem to be getting more cynical every year.
I am in no way blaming women for men cheating, but I am beginning to wonder more and more if it is wise to have young men and women together in a combat theater for 12 to 16 months at a time. Are we introducing struggles that would not be there normally? Does deployment set young marriages up for failure? Should married guys be deployed at all? (By the way, it also would be unwise, and inaccurate, to assume that all these couples were not Christians.) I do not know the answers to these questions, but as more of my married friends are being shipped out on 12-month deployments, I am starting to move away from neutrality on this issue.
Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.