European edition, Sunday, July 5, 2009
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — While the Army has been working to gauge the mental health toll of multiple deployments on soldiers, some Army leaders and spouses say the service is moving too slowly to address similar effects on military family members. Spouses face day-to-day pressure while soldiers are away and very little is being done for them at home, according to Rebecca Sinclair, the wife of 172nd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Jeff Sinclair. “Are our spouses going to be OK? Not just healthwise — getting shot. Are they going to be the same person they were when [the soldier] left? After two or three deployments, there’s a chance they might not be,” she said. The stresses on soldiers’ wives were highlighted by the recent suspected suicide of a 172nd spouse in Schweinfurt, according to Lt. Col. Eric Stetson, 172nd Infantry Brigade rear detachment commander. The Army investigation into that death is continuing. “What exactly is the toll on our spouses from these repeated deployments?” Stetson asked. “The Army is putting a lot of energy into the impact of multiple deployments on soldiers. Maybe we need to have the same focus on the impact of multiple deployments on spouses and families.” Some of the unit’s families are going through their third or fourth deployment, he said. The brigade, which deployed twice to Iraq as the 2nd “Dagger” Brigade, is halfway through a yearlong mission south of Baghdad. “The effects on soldiers of multiple deployments are compounding,” he said. “The impact on spouses … it’s the same way. We are starting to see that more and more.” And the war impacts military families living overseas more than those back home, Rebecca Sinclair said. “In the States, you could make friends through your church or neighborhood,” she said. “If you have to, you can go to your mom’s or dad’s or a friend. Here it is much more difficult.” Mental health issues have been pushed to the forefront after more than 140 soldiers committed suicide during 2008, up from 115 in 2007.