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Published: Tuesday, 11/5/2002

Abuse in the Army

The U.S. military is working to remove the stigma attached to soldiers who seek counseling, but it still has a ways to go.

Last summer four soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C. killed their wives. Three had been to Afghanistan, where as Green Berets they had fought in the war on terrorism. Although only one soldier had received marriage counseling, each of them should have.

After the killing spree the military tried to find factors linking the killings. The only similarity was that each soldier had marital problems.

While spouse abuse in Army families has dropped sharply - from 7,930 incidents in 1995 to 3,948 in 2001 - it is still too high.

The Army is trying to address that in programs to help soldiers and their families deal with the stress of overseas service.

Still, the stigma attached to counseling sometimes discourages people who need help from getting it. “It's all the more prevalent as a stigma within organizations like the military, and probably even more with people associated with elite groups within the military,” said a retired Army colonel who is an authority on military family life.

Since the Fort Bragg killings, the Army has assigned a counselor to meet every returning soldier from Afghanistan, even at the airport.

That's commendable, but the Army shouldn't stop there. It must see that soldiers follow through on counseling sessions. Otherwise, a counselor who meets a soldier at the airport is no better than good company on the way home.

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