The Latest Casualty of War: Army Divorces on the Rise

The unique stresses of the Iraq conflict threaten many married couples involved in the war. Can the Army save its soldiers from heartbreak?
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The "Ideal Couple" -- Divided

Ryan Hofmann was counting the days until his wife of three years returned home for a two-week leave to Douglassville, Pennsylvania. A mechanic in the U.S. Army Reserve, she had been stationed for 10 months at the Anaconda supply base north of Baghdad, a place so dangerous soldiers had nicknamed it "Mortaritaville" because of the frequent bombardments. Ryan, a 30-year-old business analyst, had worried so much for his 28-year-old wife's safety that he sometimes wept during their twice-monthly phone calls. The warm, fun-loving wife he remembered now seemed cool and unemotional -- something he attributed to her being in a war environment and mind-set.

According to Ryan, Patti [EDITOR'S NOTE: Her real name has not been used at her request] was scheduled to visit in early December 2004. On November 28, she called and told Ryan, who was on a hunting trip with her two brothers, that she would be home the next day. She urged him not to cut his vacation short and instead meet her the following day at her mother's home in Bensalem, an hour from Douglassville, where she would spend the night. On the evening of November 30 Ryan bought a dozen red roses and placed them on his mother-in-law's front porch. Then he called Patti on his cell phone to tell her he was outside. When she came to the door, her embrace, Ryan felt, was lukewarm. And over the next week, she was not affectionate to him, stayed up and watched TV after Ryan went to bed, and bolted off eagerly, alone, to socialize with friends.

Hurt and mystified, Ryan told himself Patti's behavior was merely awkwardness after a long separation. Up to this point, he felt, their marriage had been ideal -- they had enjoyed going to the mountains, hanging out with their families, and taking an occasional cruise. "It's not like there were any tensions," he says. When Patti and Ryan were dating in 1998, she had joined the Army Reserve as a way to pay for college. Ryan recalls that whenever he worried that she might be called to dangerous duty, she would say, "It's just the reserves. What's going to happen?"

Now, 10 days after her homecoming, in the parking lot of a home supply store, Patti tearfully confessed that she'd fallen in love with another man. "I didn't want to hurt you," Ryan recalls her saying, explaining why she hadn't spoken up sooner. Her new love, Gary [EDITOR'S NOTE: His real name has not been used at his request], was another mechanic in Patti's unit; Ryan believes the relationship began in early December 2003, halfway through her four-month training at Fort Eustis, Virginia. It was a double betrayal for Ryan, whom Patti had introduced to Gary when Ryan drove her back after Christmas break that year. Gary, a 39-year-old divorced father of two, had promised Ryan he'd protect Patti, and a grateful Ryan had sent care packages to Gary -- including photos and videos of Gary's sons, whom Ryan visited at their home in Wilmington, Delaware -- whenever he sent parcels of shampoo, snacks, and books to Patti. According to Ryan, Gary had even treated Ryan to dinner when he was home on leave in August. "'She loves you, man. That's all she talks about,'" Ryan recalls Gary saying.

Continued on page 2:  Too Many Doors to Temptation

 

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