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Should you Suffer if Your Spouse Behaves Badly?

Over the past several months national news has been riddled with tales of high-up military officials doing naughty things, getting caught and then being fired. There are the Navy commanders you probably have never heard of before. There are the more high profile Army generals and colonels caught in bigamy and sexual assault. And there is Gen. Petreaus — and we all know what happened there.

But behind each and every one of these cases full of high profile victims or scandalous consensual partners are other, quieter victims.

The wives.

In the cases of what seem like whole hills of Navy commanders, the wives silently suffer the public embarrassment or pay cuts that come with rank reduction. But in the case of those who have lost or are likely to loose their jobs as a result of their accused crimes — such as Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, now retired Lt. Col. James Johnson III and even Staff Sgt. Robert Bales — their wives are likely to walk away with empty pockets, a sad resume thanks to years of spousedome and very few prospects.

But one former military spouse wants to change that — and not because her pockets are empty, but because her husband’s jury made sure they were full at the sacrifice of handing down what she considers to be a harsh enough punishment to her ex-husband.

We’ve written about Kristina Johnson before. You’ll recall it was she who turned her badly behaving husband in to start with after he committed bigamy, fraud and adultery so that he could carry on an affair with an Iraqi woman. He even moved the woman into his quarters on post in Italy. He wasn’t exactly being subtle.

But instead of being stripped of all rank and booted out the door, he was allowed to retire as a Lt. Col. (with all the benefits that come along with that), reprimanded and fined $300,000.

Now his ex-wife is saying that she believes the jury handed down such a light ruling in an attempt to protect her, according to this story. Had he been stripped of everything she would’ve been, too. This way she will be able to receive his retirement benefits.

And so Johnson is asking Army leadership to find a way to allow juries to punish badly behaving husbands while protecting wives’ benefits.

From the story:

Mrs. Johnson, now a saleswoman for a high-end clothing boutique in New Jersey, said spouses who sacrifice their own careers to support their families and their husbands’ careers have earned financial protection from the military.

“A lot of spouses give back as volunteers, they’re also serving,” Mrs. Johnson said. “You’ve invested yourself … in the Army community with your time and energy.”

Johnson said she risked her financial future to turn her husband in, but others may suffer in silence because they fear a post-court martial life more than one watching a criminal.

So, tell me –would it be fair for spouses to be protected even after a husband’s sentence is handed down? And should this only apply to divorced families? In the case of Staff Sgt. Bales and Brig. Gen. Sinclair, for example, they are still married. If their spouse is ensured financial protection from the military, wouldn’t it, in turn, benefit the servicemember?

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the managing editor of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is an Associate Editor. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on NPR and in the New York Times. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.