America’s military families receive a long-hoped-for gift this holiday season: the return of 40,000 troops. But without support, one of the longest wars in U.S. history could have additional casualties – the demise of military marriages and families.

Since the start of the Afghan-Iraq wars in 2001, the military divorce rate has grown 42 percent, resulting in tens of thousands of divorces—a kind of “death toll” rarely reported.

Thousands of returning service men and women have endured multiple deployments resulting in years of separation from their spouses and children. While the return home is a highly anticipated reunion for these soldiers and their families, it is also a delicate reintegration into a family unit that has, by necessity, functioned on its own.

When a spouse is deployed, both spouses change in significant ways as they experience the ordinary and extraordinary events of life. The reintegration of the two individual lives generally takes some time and is not without struggle. FamilyLife, the global non-profit leader in marriage conferences, and Mercy Me, the Grammy award winning contemporary Christian band, are launching a national initiative called Finally Home To Family to support the returning troops and their families during this delicate transition period, which typically follows five phases.

The first two phases include a pre-return period of preparation and anticipation followed by a brief honeymoon period. However, the next 90 days post-deployment are the most critical for military marriages. 

During this time there is a period of disruption to family routines and responsibilities followed by an adjustment period in which people develop new systems, expectations and communications methods that set the tone for the future of the marriage.

The most common pitfalls during this post-deployment period include maintaining unrealistic expectations, rushing the transition, renegotiating roles, and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s critical during this time of re-acquaintance for military couples to have access to resources and support that help them establish healthy ways to reconnect with each other so they can move into a phase of acceptance and appreciation for all of that their “new” life together has to offer.

FamilyLife and Mercy Me would like to spark a nationwide movement to ‘give back’ to those who have given so much. As part of this effort, we want to provide scholarships to military couples who attend a FamilyLife marriage enrichment event.

Why not consider supporting a military family to say “Thank You” for all they have sacrificed? Visit FinallyHomeToFamily.org or call (800) 358-6329 to give $10 or more to help sponsor a military couple to attend a FamilyLife marriage enrichment event.

Supporting a military family gives us all an opportunity to reach out, make a difference and say thank you to America’s heroes.

Dennis Rainey is president and CEO of FamilyLife, a subsidiary of Campus Crusade for Christ. He has authored or co-authored more than two dozen books including the bestselling "Moments Together for Couples" and "Staying Close." Dennis serves as the senior editor of the HomeBuilders Couples Series® which has sold over 2.5 million copies and has been translated into 47 languages.