Breaking the Military Family Stereotypes
Every time there’s a scandal among our military overseas, the stereotypes pop up. One of them is that most of our warriors suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and have been broken by repeated deployments to combat zones. Another is that they represent the poorest and least educated segments of our society and have chosen the military because they can’t get other jobs.
I’ve found all of this to be false in my time with the Army in Afghanistan. And a survey of military families released on May 9th suggests that, contrary to the stereotype, military families are healthy and resilient, and have much higher rates of civic engagement than most Americans.
The survey shows that PTSD and repeated deployments aren’t the top concerns to most family members—less than 8 percent of respondents ranked these as their number one issue, as opposed to 31 percent who were concerned with upcoming changes to retirement benefits (see page 9 in the report). However, 26 percent of respondents felt that their deployed family member had shown signs of PTSD, though just 3 percent had a diagnosis. Only 1 percent of family members reported being injured by a PTSD-afflicted service member, and 5 percent reported feeling fear. This suggests that for the vast majority of service members, PTSD is a manageable problem
The survey of more than 4,000 members of military families of all service branches, representing both enlisted personnel and officers, is an annual poll conducted by Blue Star Families, a group devoted to helping military families.
The survey didn’t dig deep on economic issues, but one stereotype-busting result is that 92 percent of military family members said that serving their country was the most important reason to join the military—followed by educational benefits. Only a small percentage reported having resorted to the notorious “payday lenders,” and 59 percent of military families reported owning their own home, slightly lower than the national average of 67 percent, but understandable given that many military families live on posts and move very frequently.